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The Bottom Line: The Cleveland Guardians need to extend Jose Ramirez this offseason

The baseball team based in Cleveland has 12 games left in what has been an extremely disappointing season. Barring an ultimate miracle, those will be the final games they play with their current nickname.

In just under two weeks, they will officially become the Cleveland Guardians, and while their problematic nickname will be no more, the on-field problems are still very real.

Coming into this season, the future Guardians, over the previous five years, had made the playoffs four times, appeared in the World Series, had the best record in the American League, and rattled off an AL-record 22 consecutive wins.

This past offseason was an opportunity for the franchise to show that they were serious about getting back to the levels of competitiveness that fans had become accustomed to. And with the division rival White Sox continuing to improve, Cleveland needed to make some aggressive moves to return to those levels.

Instead they traded a franchise player in Fransisco Lindor and a fan favorite in Carlos Carrasco, signed two solid veterans, one of whom had been with the team the year before, and entered the 2021 season with the lowest payroll in baseball.

This season has been an unmitigated disaster. Most of the team's key players have missed significant time with injury, including their top three starting pitchers and second-best hitter. The Guardian’s best hitter, however, has missed almost no time.

That is Jose Ramirez, who has played in 140 of the team’s 150 games and has cemented himself as not only Cleveland’s best position player, but the best third baseman in the sport.

Despite everything falling to pieces around him as the future Guardians limp toward a near-.500 record, Ramirez has produced day-in and day-out. He has hit 35 home runs, 30 doubles, stolen 24 bases and has a good chance to win his first Gold Glove. While he has no chance to win MVP this year, he will likely finish in the top five for the fourth time in the last five years.

Ramirez hits for power, runs the bases better than almost any player in the majors, plays great defense, rarely strikes out and draws plenty of walks. He is a complete hitter, and when you add in his baserunning ability and much-improved defense, he is clearly one of the very best players in the sport.

However, this is not simply about his on-field prowess. Ramirez represents a massive opportunity for the Guardians. As the franchise transitions to a new era, they bring with them a reputation as an organization who refuses to spend big and is unable to re-sign their stars, necessitating uninspiring trades of players who fans have grown to love.

Those same fans, however, could be turned in an instant if the team were to sign Ramirez to a contract extension this offseason. It would be a way for an ownership group that has promised to increase payroll and invest more in the team to show that they are serious.

The only way for the payroll to go is up, but Cleveland is running out of time. Given his recent health concerns, no one knows how long Hall of Fame-caliber manager Terry Francona will remain in the dugout. It could only be a matter of time before another franchise scoops up one of the executives that have made this franchise one of the most well-run in baseball over the last decade.

Cleveland has been on a steady decline since losing in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, and fans are quickly turning against the franchise.

The bottom line is that the best way for the Guardians to get fans on their side is to win, and the first step toward winning is to make sure that Jose Ramirez isn’t going anywhere.

Will Cunningham is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Will? Tweet him @willocunningham.  

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