August 21, 2014

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Indians catcher Yan Gomes on signing extension: ‘There’s not another place I would want to be’

Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes watches from the dugout Monday in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes watches from the dugout Monday in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Catcher Yan Gomes finds no issues in making a long-term commitment to the Cleveland Indians.

He is confident the franchise’s strides in a turnaround 2013 season will carry over to future success starting this season.

Gomes and the Indians completed a $23 million, six-year contract Monday after his breakout performance last season.

“It goes into what it means to be in this organization. You’ve got younger guys like ourselves just wanting to be here,” Gomes said. “We’re potentially signing a big amount of our careers. There’s not another place I would want to be with, especially from the top to the bottom here. It’s the organization you want to be with.”

That feeling is mutual, even if Gomes provided a small sample size of the impact he can make behind the plate and with the bat. Assistant general manager Mike Chernoff and others in the front office are impressed with Gomes’ constant work to better learn Cleveland’s pitchers so they all find a comfort zone together.

Gomes’ deal includes club options for 2020 and ’21 that could bring the total to
$42 million over eight years — or even $48 million with escalators.

“This is the organization I want to be with, that actually made it pretty easy,” Gomes said before the scheduled opener in rain-soaked Oakland. “I’m so thankful for that. My wife and I are excited to be Cleveland Indians for a while now. … We got a little taste of the postseason last year. That’s what we play for.”

Gomes hit .294 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs in 88 games last season, his first with the Indians. The Indians went 49-30 when Gomes started, and manager Terry Francona went with Gomes during crucial games down the September stretch.

“It’s kind of been the motto of my career — I’ve always had to battle. It’s not going to stop,” Gomes said. “This is a huge blessing getting a contract like this, but now we’re talking about taking this team to another level.”

His new deal supersedes a previous one-year contract for 2014. The deal replaces a contract he agreed to in early March calling for a $513,000 salary in the majors and $281,000 in the minors.

Gomes receives a $500,000 signing bonus, payable within 30 days of the contract’s approval, and salaries of $550,000 salary this year, $1 million in 2015, $2.5 million in 2016, $4.5 million in 2017, $5.95 million in 2018 and $7 million in 2019. Cleveland has a $9 million option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout, and if that is exercised the Indians would have an $11 million option for 2021.

The options may escalate by up to $3 million each based on MVP voting, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and All-Star appearances.

“He’s shown us that he’s worth this contract,” Francona said. “We have that much faith in him, and that’s pretty amazing for a young kid with that kind of track record, or lack of track record, for us to buy in that much. So that’s a pretty good compliment to him.”

Negotiations began during spring training. The deal with Gomes will keep Cleveland’s young core together for years to come.

“You hope that these deals are win-win deals,” Chernoff said. “They all want to be here. It’s an environment, a culture, that people want to be a part of.”

The 26-year-old — the first Brazilian-born player in the majors — began last season at Triple-A Columbus, but after being brought up in April he stayed the rest of the year and was a major contributor as the Indians made the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Gomes was acquired from Toronto on Nov. 2, 2012.

“He is the guy that, in spring training as we’re having these talks with him about a long-term contract, he’s putting in more and more time to try to get to know the pitchers to build on where he was last year,” Chernoff said. “He’s also a great organizational story. Our scouts worked really hard to identify Yan with Toronto and find a way to get him in a deal.”

Gomes was set to start and bat ninth in the season opener.

Francona expressed his gratitude for the process.

“I got a chance to maybe have a little bit of a front-row seat and it was kind of cool,” he said. “Because those things just don’t happen, in today’s game especially, with the amount of dollars we’re talking about. … To see them kind of work through it was really interesting. It’s kind of a proud moment for our organization, because we got a guy that we really think a lot of tied up for a long time. He’s going to be a big part of what we do.”