Mariners, Julio Rodriguez Finalizing 14-Year Extension


11:44 am: The exact terms of the contract are a $210 million guarantee over a 14-year term, Jeff Passan. from ESPN tweets. That said, Passan adds that it is an extremely complex structure that includes both player options and club options. That $450MM cap will attract a lot of attention, but it’s practically unprecedented for any player to fully utilize the incentives, escalators, and option requirements needed to capture the maximum value of a long-term contract.

11:29 am: The Mariners are finalizing an overtime with midfielder and AL Rookie of the Year candidate Julio Rodriguezreports Jesse Sanchez of (Twitter link). Rodriguez is expected to guarantee more than $200MM. There are options, incentives and escalators that could make the deal worth about $450 million in a time frame yet to be determined.

Rodriguez, 21, broke camp with the Mariners this season and, after a tough few weeks to start the year, he immediately burst into stardom and has established himself as one of the frontrunners for the Rookie of the Year accolades. . He currently hits .269/.328/.471 with 20 home runs, 19 doubles, three triples and 23 steals (in 29 tries) — plus above-average defensive contributions in the midfield.

Those numbers are at least slightly distorted by a poor start to the year in which Rodriguez hit .136/.208/.159 with a 45% strikeout rate. Rodriguez is dated April 22 and has mashed a clip of .285/.342/.508. That production is about 46% better than the competition average after weighting for park and competition as measured by wRC+, putting Rodriguez level three points with Alex Bregman and the recently extended Austin Riley for 12th best among qualified major league hitters. Rodriguez also ranks 13th in the Majors in both average exit speed (92 mph) and hard-hit rate (49.6%) at the time, and his 14.9% barrel rate in that range is MLB’s ninth best figure.

Add to that the fact that he did all this at the age of 21 and after skipping the Triple-A level completely, and Rodriguez’s rookie season becomes all the more remarkable. Given that youth and the lack of spice for the senior minors, it’s entirely possible that while Rodriguez is already one of the best hitters in the game, we haven’t even seen the best he has to offer.

From a defensive standpoint, Rodriguez has more than held his own in midfield this season, racking up positives in Points Defended Saved (2), Ultimate Zone Rating (0.3) and Outs Above Average (5). Many scouting reports written before his MLB debut suggested that as Rodriguez ages and fills up, he could be destined for an outfield corner, but given his 70- or even 80-degree raw power and the solid work that he flashed in the middle this season, he will have both the bat and probably the defensive chops to make an above average contribution in right or left field.

The $210 million guarantee on this contract gives Rodriguez the record for the largest contract ever signed by a player with less than a year of Major League service time. That distinction currently belongs to Ray’s shortstop Wander Francowho signed an 11-year, $182 million contract last November.

Rodriguez will knock that figure down with ease, though it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Franco didn’t get promoted until mid-season and signed his deal in the winter, when the Rays had six full seasons of club control over him. Because Rodriguez has been on the Opening Day roster, he will receive a full year of service in 2022 and would have “only” five additional years of club control. In that regard, Rodriguez could technically be considered more of a one-plus player (between one and two years of service), although even if you look at the contract through that lens, it’s still a record deal; Ke’Bryan HayesA $70MM extension at Pittsburgh was the previous record for a player with between one and two years of service.

Regardless of which service category one considers more appropriate for Rodriguez, this new 14-year deal now stands as the largest contract ever promised to a player with less than two years of Major League service time. In that regard, Rodriguez and the Major League Baseball Players Association are certainly pleased to see that the precedent for young, superstar expansion has been pushed even further.

That said, there is still potential for the contract to be very beneficial to the Mariners. Rodriguez would likely have earned close to league minimum salary for the next two seasons (plus any payouts from the newly collectively agreed-upon pre-arbitration player bonus pool). A player with his upside and early dominance would probably have done quite well in arbitration, and while we can never know precisely however much he may have earned through that process, arbitration is generally based on precedent. Looking for recent comparisons, Mookie Betts got $57.5 MM for his three arbitration seasons. If we put Rodriguez in that area, his remaining five years of club control would have earned him somewhere in the $60MM range – maybe a few million more if he’d taken home an MVP Award and/or set the Betts precedent a little further.

If Betts is even a loosely accurate barometer of Rodriguez’s arbitration, the Mariners appear to be stuck in what would have been nine seasons as a free agent at a total cost of around $150MM. That $16.67MM annual value pales in comparison to what Rodriguez could have made in the open market had he gone from year to year and hit the free-agent market before his 27-year season, but that’s the nature of early contract renewal. There is clearly a high risk of injury or performance degradation for Rodriguez, all of which is ingrained in the relative discount rate for those open market seasons.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that if the contract includes player options and/or opt-out clauses, as Passan suggests, Rodriguez could hit the “eject” button on the deal and either hit an earlier date could enter into a free agency. The $210MM amount is the minimum he will be guaranteed if he plays out the 14-year term of this deal, but an opt-out in his late 20s or early 30s could change the calculus (as would any price-based incentives / escalators and club options – all of which are typically negotiated in extensions of this nature).

More to come.

The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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