ESPN’s Passan: Why Mariners’ deal with Julio Rodríguez is so significant

Aug 31, 2022, 11:36 AM

Mariners Julio Rodriguez...

Julio Rodriguez celebrates his home run against the Cleveland Guardians at T-Mobile Park on August 27, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ massive contract extension with star rookie outfielder Julio Rodríguez has been the talk of the baseball world for nearly a week now.

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Not only did the Mariners lock up their face of the franchise with more than a month remaining in his rookie season, but the deal could keep Rodríguez in Seattle as long as 2039 while paying him as much as $470 million.

Someone who helped break the news of Rodríguez’s deal and the specifics of the contract is ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan, who joined The Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM Wednesday morning to explain what makes this deal so important for both Rodríguez and the Mariners.

“It’s the right deal for him. That’s a part of this that I think fans sometimes have a difficult time understanding,” Passan said. “It’s that Julio Rodríguez, if he wanted, could have been Juan Soto. And if he chose to be Juan Soto, that is perfectly well within his rights.”

Soto, of course, is the superstar outfielder who was traded earlier this month from the Washington Nationals to the San Diego Padres despite being just 23 years old and having two full seasons left on his rookie deal. Soto and the Nationals talked about a contract extension that would have made him among the game’s highest-paid players, but he declined the offer and now finds himself in San Diego after being part of one of the largest trade packages in baseball history.

That kind of situation won’t be happening with Rodríguez now.

“Julio Rodríguez, I think, wanted to have his cake and eat it, too,” Passan said. “And they found a contract structure that allowed him to do that.”

Passan noted that some agents have criticized the deal for effectively being a 13-year contract worth a guarantee of just over $210 million. He also noted that it’s unclear where the Mariners will be seven years down the road when they must choose whether or not to exercise a club option on Rodríguez for either eight or 10 years depending on how he does in MVP voting.

“We don’t know what ownership is going to be like, we don’t know who’s gonna be running the club, we don’t know what the financial situation is going to be. None of that,” Passan said. “So there is risk involved in trusting that the Mariners are going to want to keep him around for that second half of this mega-contract.”

That being said, Passan believes from “a strictly prudent perspective” that the right thing is to “keep your superstar in your uniform for his entire career.” And he thinks the Mariners have locked down the right kind of guy.

“Everything we’ve seen from him at this point points in the direction of a true franchise player,” he said. “He is Ichiro, he is A-Rod, he is Junior, he is what the Mariners have been lacking for a long time now. And unlike Junior, unlike A-Rod and, even at the end unlike Ichiro, there’s a good chance that Julio Rodríguez spends his entire career wearing nothing but a Seattle Mariners uniform.”

“Julio Rodríguez at 21 years old actively chose to be a Seattle Mariner for life. Think about that,” Passan later added. “Think about the decision that you’re making when you’re 21 years old. I actually talked to him that day and I was like, ‘How are you feeling?’ and he was like, ‘I feel great, bro.’ And hearing him say that, you can just picture the smile on his face when he’s saying that. It goes such a long way. And the fact that he’s been, even since the contract signing, as central to the Ichiro (Mariners Hall of Fame) ceremony (on Saturday) and to everything that the Mariners are doing right now, he’s the guy you want. He’s the guy you dream of if you’re an organization.”

Listen to the full conversation with Passan at this link or in the player below.

More on Mariners’ extension with Rodríguez

• Fann: Julio Rodríguez deal should mark start of Mariners payroll windfall
• With deal official, Rodríguez wants to be with Mariners ‘for the rest of my career’
• Drayer: Rodríguez’s deal with Mariners will help both sides for long time

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