With deal official, Rodríguez wants to be with Mariners ‘for the rest of my career’

Aug 27, 2022, 3:15 PM | Updated: 3:53 pm

Mariners Julio Rodriguez...

Julio Rodriguez smiles after hitting a three run home run against the Texas Rangers at T-Mobile Park on July 27, 2022. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Julio Rodríguez’s megadeal with the Mariners is now official, keeping the star rookie center fielder in Seattle through at minimum 2029 and potentially as long as 2039.

Mariners officially ink star rookie OF Julio Rodríguez to megadeal

That’s quite the job security for someone who’s played just 109 games at the big league level and is 21 years old. And with most of his teammates and coaches in the room Saturday afternoon, it was made clear from both Rodríguez and the Mariners during a press conference announcing the deal that he’s aiming to be in Seattle for the long haul.

“What can I say? I’m just happy to be a Mariner. I’m trying to be a Mariner for as long as I can,” Rodríguez said. “Happy for you guys to give me the opportunity to change my family’s life if not today, but 2017 when you guys gave me the opportunity. Since that day, I’ve felt committed to you guys … I want to be a Mariner for the rest of my career and play in front of the Mariners fans for the rest of my career and play with a lot of these guys and be managed by Scott (Servais) and have Ty (France) as my babysitter. I genuinely mean that. I love being here. I love being with everybody and I love to keep representing the city.”

“This is a fantastic moment in the history of our organization,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said.

Dipoto said that working with Rodríguez and his representative – Ulises Cabrera of Octogan – was a very good experience, and the end result was a very unique contract.

“I can’t say enough about what Ulises did in getting this done and working with Julio and collaborating with us on a contract that is really unique,” Dipoto said. “And it was required. We needed to do something unique to hopefully ensure that Julio spends the rest of his career here in Seattle.”

The deal sends a clear message about what the Mariners are aiming to do, owner John Stanton said.

“We have a long-term commitment to winning, and we have a short-term commitment to winning,” he said. “The signing of Julio Rodríguez to this contract is evidence of that commitment.”

Negotiations began in early-July, Dipoto said, and culminated with the contract being signed late this week. Rodríguez is glad to know his future is secure in more ways than one.

“It’s definitely been a long road, but I’m happy I’ve made it here and I’m happy for all the years to come and I’m happy for the opportunity,” he said, later adding, “They’re betting on me and I’m investing in the city of Seattle. I’m definitely gonna put myself in the best position I can so I can keep performing for the team, for the city and for everybody.”

For Dipoto, Stanton and the Mariners, giving out a contract of this magnitude says a lot not just about the special talent that Rodríguez is, but the kind of person he is as well. They both stressed that on Saturday.

“We want to make commitments to a number of the players – some in the room, we’ve already done that, and there are more to come as Jerry talked about,” Stanton said. “But at the end of the day, the Seattle Mariners are about character, and it’s about the type of people we have in the organization … (Rodríguez) is the kind of person that, along with many of the guys that are in the back couple of rows here today, I think we can win the World Series with.”

In addition to regularly hearing about how Rodríguez was developing on the field, Dipoto heard regularly from scouts and coaches within the organization that the 2017 international free agent was a great person as he progressed through the minors.

“Every step of the way, every one of them telling us ‘this is a special person,'” Dipoto said when asked about what made them commit to this contract. “The player part we can see, but the special person you get to know over time.”

Rodríguez has shown a great commitment to his work, but also to his teammates. Dipoto said that was clear during Rodriguez’s first MLB spring training, when he was extremely enthusiastic about the performance of his teammates.

“You just don’t see that,” Dipoto said. “That meant a lot. And to an organization, to have a player who is that invested in his teammates and the people around him and that proud to wear the jersey is pretty special.”

It’s easy to see why the Mariners would want to invest that many years and dollars into Rodríguez . He’s one of the youngest and fastest players in MLB history to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a single season, and he’s already made an All-Star team and stole the show at the Home Run Derby.

But it was easy for Rodríguez to want to stay with the organization long-term, as well.

“They helped me to get to this level. I feel like I’ve got to give a lot of credit to them,” he said. “They put a lot of things into my plate that were positive … They always show their loyalty to me. They always show me the love, they always are showing me that they care about me, and I really appreciate that.”

“I wouldn’t be the same. I know a lot of people say ‘OK, you put the work in,’ but I’ve got to give credit to the people that are helping me,” Rodríguez later added.

Additionally, Rodríguez made an immediate connection with Mariners fans.

“The fans show you their love, and I feel like everybody that’s been playing here can tell you that,” he said. “It’s a pretty special place. And I have heard from a lot of (other people) that back in the day, they have been the same (way). I just love them. I genuinely love how they show up for the team.”

After the press conference, Rodríguez said it’s obvious the kind of message his new contract sends to players around the league and within the Mariners organization.

“I feel like we’re just building something special right now. And I feel like that just shows a commitment,” he said. “If I’m here for the long run, I’m definitely here to win.”

And with the contract out of the way, all that’s left is success on the field.

“My family’s going to be OK,” he said. “Now I’ve got to just worry about playing baseball and winning.”

The contract

Rodríguez’s contract, as Dipoto said, is very unique.

It’s a base seven-year deal starting next season that comes with a club option for either eight years or 10 years. That’s determined by how Rodríguez does in MVP voting going forward.

Dipoto said that stipulation came from Rodríguez himself.

“We initially in the negotiations did not pin anything on winning MVP awards. And that was Julio,” he said. “Julio wanted us to know that he was intent on doing these things. And he thought that there should be tiers considered if he is that player. And I found that remarkable because he could have opted for much easier pathways than having to go out and win MVP awards. But when you have the kind of talent he has and the kind of confidence he has in himself, you’re willing to bet on yourself. And he bet on himself. And as a result, we gave him a series of bites at the apple based on how high up the food chain he climbs.”

The deal came together in roughly two months, and Dipoto said he and Cabrera talked dozens of times, both virtually and in person. The end result? One of the most complex and potentially lucrative deals that baseball has ever seen.

“We started with something that looked very basic and came out with something that looked like hieroglyphics,” Dipoto said. “But again, the uniqueness of trying to capture what Julio has a chance to achieve in his career and to be fair with him about what that could look like in the end was a challenge … We hope that this is a 17-year-long marriage and then we decide what to do about Year 18 and beyond. And we worked very hard to make pathways to be fair and equitable to Julio for what he has a chance to do in the game.”

After the press conference, Dipoto told reporters that the deal at one point was even more complex than it wound up being once his star outfielder put pen to paper.

“What we did was we focused on a variety of different contracts that had been done around the league, and we stole from parts of those and then we created something in this space recognizing that no one’s ever really done this before,” he said. “But when you think about it, he’s faster to 20 homers and 20 stolen bases than any player in history, he’s 21, he has charisma, the personality, the electric talent. We didn’t want to be the team that offered him something that was insanely club friendly, and maybe as importantly, we didn’t want to lose him.

“So the goal throughout was to build the mechanics of a contract that would lead us to the chance for Julio to spend the rest of his career here because that doesn’t happen much anymore and we thought it was really possible here. And ownership got in on it at the very start. And the way it works out, he will be among the elite in his compensation if he turns out to be among the elite on the field, which is what we were trying to achieve.”

Drayer: Rodríguez’s deal with Mariners will help both sides for long time

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