Amy Sancetta, Associated Press
CLEVELAND — Done rebuilding, the Cleveland Indians believe they've got enough talent to contend this season, next season and perhaps for many more.
Asdrubal Cabrera wants to be around for all of them.
On the eve of their home opener against Toronto, the Indians locked up one of their best players on Wednesday by finalizing a three-year contract with Cabrera, their slick fielding All-Star shortstop who had a breakout season in 2011.
Cabrera, who avoided salary arbitration by signing a $4.55 million contract for 2012 this winter, will make $6.5 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014. Cabrera's new deal covers his final year of arbitration eligibility and what could have been his first year as a free agent.
"This is the team I want to be on my whole career," Cabrera said.
The Indians have been working on an extension for over four months with Cabrera, who was a steadying force for the club last season when injuries overwhelmed a young team that started strongly but collapsed in the final month.
"He meant a lot," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "If you look at what went on here last year, between him and (Carlos) Santana, they probably carried the offense throughout the season, because we had so many injuries and inconsistency offensive wise.
"This guy, he was there the whole time. He played every day. He played through injuries. He declined a little bit in the second half, but at the end of the day, he set a franchise record for home runs, he drove in 90-plus runs, and he was a very good player for us.
"So I'm very happy that I won't have to worry about him for the next three years."
The 26-year-old Cabrera was easily Cleveland's MVP last season, batting .273 and posting career-highs with 25 homers and 92 RBIs — power numbers few saw coming. Before last season, the switch hitter had hit just 18 career homers. Cabrera led AL shortstops in RBIs, was tied for first in hits (165) and was second in doubles (32) and runs (87).
Beyond that, he made dazzling defensive plays that saved runs, turned games and earned him an almost nightly spot on TV highlight packages.
"Sometimes it's fun just sitting there on the bench watching him," pitcher Justin Masterson said. "It's like, 'What's he going to do next?'"
Before giving Cabrera his new deal, the Indians did not have a player signed past 2012. By extending Cabrera, the Indians sent a positive message to Cleveland's fans and through the Indians' clubhouse.
"It's nice to see the club going in the right direction," said Masterson, who will start Thursday's opener against Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero. "We know he's going to be there for the next couple years so that excites all of us who are planning to be around too. It makes things look good in the future and you know the team is willing to reward people who do great things. We have such a young core it makes for some excitement not only for this year, but for years to come."
Cabrera's wizardry with the glove has drawn some comparisons to another Venezuelan shortstop, former Indians All-Star Omar Vizquel, who played 11 seasons in Cleveland and made Toronto's opening-day roster following an impressive training camp.
As he prepared for his 24th opening day as a player, Vizquel, who will turn 45 in a few weeks, said Cleveland's new shortstop is as good as they come.
"Cabrera is way better than me," Vizquel said with a straight face. "He's done things in the field that are amazing. I don't think they were even expecting him to be a shortstop after he came up as a second baseman. He just turned out to be this unbelievable player.
"Every time I come to Cleveland I see No. 13 (Vizquel also wears 13) and see how well he's doing. It's great. I think they got what they want."
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