When the Indians signed Ryan Raburn to a minor-league deal in January, it was understandably met mostly with snickers and apathy.
He turned 32 this season, and had spent his entire Major League-career, covering parts of seven seasons, with the rival Detroit Tigers, posting a middling 2.2 WAR over that span, mostly in part-time work.
About the nicest thing you could say in January about Raburn, the player, is he’s versatile, and could play multiple outfield positions and even some infield spots in a pinch. Very few thought he’d make the team, much less make an impact.
Times have changed, and Raburn, now in the midst of a nice season with the Indians, signed a $4.85 million extension with the club today, according to multiple reports.
Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer reports Raburn will make $2.25 million in 2014, $2.5 million in 2015, and the team holds a $3 million option for 2016, with a $100,000 buyout.
Raburn has been a pleasant surprise for the Tribe, posting a 2.1 WAR in 66 games this season. In 184 at bats, he’s hit .277/.370/.565 along with 13 home runs.
It would be easy to be cynical and look at this deal as the Indians being hoodwinked by the small-sample success of Raburn this season, but credit manager Terry Francona for knowing how to utilize and maximize Raburn’s potential. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility to expect the cost for a utility/bench player such as Raburn to be far more than the $4.85 million total price tag. Sure, there are still valid reasons to be concerned about Raburn sustaining this production, but one could still find as many valid reasons to make a minor monetary risk such as this a worthwhile gamble.
If nothing else, it once again shows the Indians are concerned about all aspects of roster construction, especially when you look at the contract fellow utility player Mike Aviles signed in the offseason. Aviles signed a two-year deal prior to the season, and next year the Indians will pay both players a total of $5.75 million (minus any bonuses), and it’s not hard to conceive the two players being more valuable than what the team is paying them.
Raburn’s extension isn’t sexy, but it’s a solid low-cost gamble by the Indians.