Shane Bieber open to contract extension, believes Indians will contend this season

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Shane Bieber unanimously won the American League Cy Young award during last year’s shortened season which, if history is any indication, means he’s about to price himself out of Cleveland.

The Indians’ previous three Cy Young Award winners have all been traded – C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Corey Kluber, but the cash strapped ballclub isn’t likely to put their latest ace on the trading block anytime soon.

Bieber is under club control for the next three years as he becomes arbitration eligible in 2022 and he isn’t eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2025.

Since the 1990’s the Indians have made it a habit to buy out the three arbitration years as well as first two or three years of free agency with contract extensions, something Bieber is amenable to.

“It’s absolutely something I’d be open to,” Bieber said Monday. “But in terms of conversations, nothing has really come about. I think everybody is kind of on the same page, you know, one step at a time. We have a very new group coming in this year, and there’s a lot of turnover from last year and so it’s a different look and everybody just kind of wants to get the ball rolling, get all on the same page.

“In terms of conversations, they haven’t really happened yet, so that’s something I’d love to dive into and hopefully that will be reciprocated as well.”

Bieber won the pitching Triple Crown in 2020, leading the majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

As good as Bieber is now, he’s a bargain financially, and expected to get better on the mound.

“I still consider it very early in my career,” Bieber said. “There’s a lot to improve on, a lot to build off of.”

The 25-year-old comes into this season not basking in the glow of his newly acquired hardware, but motivated after the New York Yankees slapped him around for seven earned runs on nine hits, including two homers, in 4 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the AL Wild Card series last October.

“I think one silver lining is, the playoffs working out the way they did last year, I still have a lot to prove and a lot to work on and a lot to strive for,” Bieber said.

The trade of four-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor along with beloved starter Carlos Carrasco still hangs over the club at the outset of camp despite denials and assertions they have moved on and believe they can still contend after dealing their best player.

“Huge shoes to fill not only on the field but in the clubhouse,” Bieber said. “Those guys are incredible players, but more than anything, incredible people.”

Bieber echoed the message that has come from Goodyear, Arizona – Cleveland, which hasn’t had a losing season since 2012 and has made the playoffs five times over the last eight seasons, remains a contender.

“We had a young team last year and we’ve got a young team this year again,” Bieber said. “We were kind of learning on the fly last year. I think that’s the beauty of baseball, Major League Baseball specifically, turning over rosters year after year.

“You got to learn each other and learn on the fly, but I guess if anything, it’s fortunate that we’ve got quite a bit longer season this year, a little bit more time to work towards our ultimate goal.”

That goal is to defy the odds with their slimmed down payroll and win the World Series, which hasn’t been done by the franchise since 1948, the longest drought in baseball after falling short as AL pennant winners in 1954, 1995, 1997 and 2016.

Bieber conceded that there is a void left behind by Lindor, but his belief they will win without him is steadfast.

“Over the first three or so days for me here, it’s been awesome to connect with everybody new that’s come in and we’re excited,” Bieber said. “We trust everybody to do their job, and that includes the front office that they’re putting together the best roster that we can and we’re excited going into this year, that’s for sure.”