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Mariners to Sign Julio Rodriguez to Extension Value at Least $210 Million


In spring training, Julio Rodríguez, a Seattle Mariners prospect, said he had “little question” that he might be an All-Star who clubs 500 home runs and ends Seattle’s 20-season playoff drought. He even thought he could eventually lead the team to its first World Series title.

On Friday, with Rodríguez in the midst of a rookie season by which he was already an All-Star, shined on the Home Run Derby and can most probably win the American League’s Rookie of the 12 months Award, he was finalizing a contract to match his ambition, with an expected $210 million guaranteed and the opportunity of the deal reaching $470 million, which could be the most important total value contract in baseball history.

The main points of the contract, which were confirmed by an individual accustomed to the negotiations who was not authorized to debate it publicly, are wildly complicated. It might start with an eight-year deal for $120 million that may run from this season through 2029, at which point there could be multiple team options that may range widely in length and value depending on certain benchmarks — probably the most extreme of which might add 10 years and $350 million to the unique deal.

Should the team decline those options, Rodríguez would have a five-year player option for $90 million. He could also leave that $90 million on the table and be a free agent at 29.

The Mariners’ faith in Rodríguez is straightforward to grasp. After a slow start offensively, which dragged his overall numbers down, he has was the well-rounded offensive force that the team expected. In a span of 88 games from May 1 through Thursday, he hit .282 with a .337 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage.

Overall, he has hit 20 home runs and stolen 23 bases, making him certainly one of only two 20-20 players this season. He has held his own defensively in center field, and despite his young age he’s nineteenth within the majors in wins above substitute amongst position players. (Only two other players within the top-20 are younger than 25: Cleveland’s Andrés Giménez and San Diego’s Juan Soto.)

When Rodríguez’s deal is complete, he can be a part of a trend of young players who decide to lock in enormous contracts early of their careers relatively than waiting through years of team control for the possible payday of free agency. Other such deals have included the San Diego Padres’ signing Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year, $340 million deal; the Tampa Bay Rays’ signing Wander Franco for 11 years and $182 million (with the chance for that deal to climb far higher) and the Atlanta Braves’ signing Ronald Acuña Jr. to an eight-year, $100 million contract in 2019 that now seems wildly undervalued.

However the deals have continued regardless. Recently, Atlanta struck again, signing outfielder Michael Harris to an eight-year, $72 million deal on Aug. 16 despite his having played only 70 games within the majors on the time of the deal.

For Rodríguez and the Mariners, the deal represents a commitment to keep on with a player they developed after a long time of watching their stars leave. The team that drafted and developed Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodríguez saw each superstars leave of their primes but will now presumably have Julio Rodríguez, whom they originally signed as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2017, for the vast majority of his profession, and most probably everything of it.

The Mariners invested heavily of their roster this past off-season, signing last 12 months’s A.L. Cy Young Award-winner, Robbie Ray, to a $115 million contract and trading for third baseman Eugenio Suárez and outfielder Jesse Winker to enhance a core of Rodríguez, first baseman Ty France, catcher Cal Raleigh and the right-hander Logan Gilbert.

Currently, that has added as much as Seattle’s being 68-57 through Thursday, which had them in second place within the A.L. West and leading the Baltimore Orioles by 2.5 games for the A.L.’s third wild card.

If that holds, Rodríguez can have already completed two of his ambitious goals: ending the playoff drought and being an All-Star. Then, he would just need a World Series ring and 480 more home runs.

James Wagner contributed reporting.

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