11:44: The exact terms of the contract are a guarantee of $210MM over a period of 14 years, ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets. That said, Passan added that it is a very complex structure that includes both player options and club options. That $450MM ceiling will attract a lot of attention, but it’s practically unprecedented for any player to fully maximize the incentives, escalators, and option requirements needed to lock in the maximum value of a long-term contract. Further illustrating that impossibility, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that, including options, contracts can last for 20 years.
11:29: Mariners are finalizing contract extensions with center fielder and AL Rookie of the Year candidate Julio Rodriguezreports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (Twitter link). This is expected to guarantee Rodriguez over $200MM. There are options, incentives and escalators that can make a deal worth around $450 million over an undetermined period of time. Rodriguez is represented by the Octagon.
Rodriguez, 21, broke camp with the Mariners this season and, after a tough few weeks to start the year, immediately became a star and has established himself as one of the frontrunners for the Rookie of the Year award. He’s currently hitting .269/.328/.471 with 20 home runs, 19 doubles, three triples and 23 steals (in 29 tries) — plus an above-average defensive contribution in midfield.
Those numbers are at least slightly skewed by a poor start to the year in which Rodriguez hit 0.136/.208/159 with a strikeout rate of 45%. Back on April 22, Rodriguez had made a .285/.342/.508 clip. That production is about 46% better than the league average after weighting for parks and leagues, by wRC+ measures, which puts Rodriguez in a three-way tie with Alex Bregman and also recently extended Austin Riley for 12th best among the qualifying Major League hitters. Rodriguez also ranked 13th in the Major in average exit speed (92 mph) and hit rate (49.6%) at that time, and a 14.9% barrel rate in that range is MLB’s ninth best mark.
Add in the fact that he’s doing all of this at the age of 21 and having passed Triple-A level completely, and Rodriguez’s rookie season is all the more incredible. Given that youth and lack of seasoning is top-minor, it’s entirely possible that even though Rodriguez is already ranked among the game’s best hitters, we haven’t even seen the best he has to offer.
From a defensive point of view, Rodriguez has more than stayed in midfield this season, scoring positives in Defensive Runs Saved (2), Ultimate Zone Rating (0.3) and Above Average Outs (5). Numerous scouting reports written prior to his MLB debut suggest that as Rodriguez ages and continues to fill in, he could be destined for a corner outfield slot, but given the raw strength of a 70 or even 80 class and the solid work he puts into this midway through. season, he’ll have the bat and likely defensive chops to be an above-average contributor on the right or left field.
The $210MM guarantee on this contract would give Rodriguez the record for the largest contract ever signed by a player with under a year’s Premier League service time. That difference is currently owned by shortstop Rays Wandering Francowho signed an 11-year $182 million contract last November.
Rodriguez would topple that mark easily, even if it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Franco was not promoted until mid-season and signed his contract in the winter, when Rays had six full seasons of club control left over him. Since Rodriguez made the Opening Day roster, he will get a full year of service in 2022 and has “only” five additional years of club control remaining. In that sense, Rodriguez could technically be considered more of a one-plus player (between one and two years of service time), although even when looking at the contract through that lens, it’s still a record-setting deal; Ke’Bryan Hayes‘ The $70MM extension in Pittsburgh is the previous record for a player with between one and two years of service.
Regardless of which service bracket one thinks is more appropriate for Rodriguez, this new 14-year contract is now the biggest contract ever promised to a player with less than two years of Premier League service time. In that aspect, Rodriguez and the Major League Baseball Players Association would be pleased to see the precedent for the renewal of the young superstar move further forward.
All that being said, there is still a potentially quite lucrative contract for the Mariners. Rodriguez is likely to earn close to the league’s minimum wage over the next two seasons (plus any payouts from the newly collectively bid bonus pool for pre-arbitration players). A player with early lead and dominance will likely do quite well in arbitrage, and while we’ll never know appropriate how much he might earn through the process, arbitration is generally based on precedent. Looking for the latest comparisons, Mookie Bet secured $57.5MM for its three arbitration seasons. If we put Rodriguez in that broad area, his remaining five years of club control might have netted him somewhere in the $60MM range — perhaps several million more if he takes home the MVP Award and/or pushes Betts a’s precedent a little further.
If Betts is even a very accurate barometer for Rodriguez’s arbitration, the Mariners appear to have locked in what should have been nine seasons of free agency with total costs in the $150MM range. The annual value of $16.67 MM is definitely nothing compared to what Rodriguez could have earned on the open market had he gone year after year and entered the free agency market before his 27th season, but that’s how it is. initial contract extension. There’s clearly a lot of risk of injury or underperformance for Rodriguez, all of which is factored into the relative discount rate for that open market season.
It’s also worth remembering that if the contract has a player option and/or opt-out clause, as Passan suggests, Rodriguez can hit the “eject” button on the deal and go into free agency at an earlier date. The $210MM figure is the guaranteed minimum for him if he plays the 14-year term of this deal, but opting out in his late 20s or early 30s can change the calculus (as can reward-based incentives/escalators and club options — all of which usually offered to be an extension like this).
From a team payroll point of view, there is plenty of room for Seattle to make a commitment like this. A large part of the team’s recent rebuild has been dedicated to cleaning up the long-term mess of the books — for example, Robinson Cano trading — and the team’s long-term commitment is now rather minimal. A left-handed Robbie Ray signed until the 2026 season, like a shortstop JP Crawford, but they would have combined for just $37 million at that point. It will only be Rodriguez’s fifth major league season, so the salary on his contract will most likely still not increase to his maximum level.
Looking more in the short term, books are also still accommodating. The Marines, who will see the veterans Mitch Haniger and Adam Frazier reached free agent at the end of the season, had over $63MM of security deposit on 2023 payroll prior to this contract. That figure doesn’t include the $8MM option for righty Chris Flexenalso excludes some arbitration increases: louis castle (earned $7.35 million this season), diego castle ($2,315MM), Paul Sewald ($1,735MM), French Ty (pre-arb) and Erik Swanson (pre-arb). That said, Rodriguez’s pay figures were quite low in the deal’s first few seasons, so it shouldn’t affect the team’s bottom line at all.
More will come.