Julio Rodríguez, Mariners agree to deal worth up to $469M

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — Julio Rodriguez and the Seattle Mariners are set on a long-term relationship in the Pacific Northwest, agreeing to a 12-year, $209.3 million contract starting next season that would be worth $469.6 million over 17 years if he wins two MVP awards.

The deal announced for the 21-year-old All-Star outfielder includes seven seasons. a five-year player option, an eight-year club option with award escalators and the possibility the option could extend to 10 years.

If the club option is execised, the deal would be worth $309.3 million for 12 years. If Rodriguez earns two MVP awards by 2028 or finishes among the top five in voting four times, the deal would boost to $469.6 million, including postseason award bonuses.

If Seattle turns down a one-time team option for 2030-37 – which must be exercised after the 2028 World Series – there is a mutual option that could be exercised after the 2029 Series calling for $168 million from 2030-36. There also is a player option that guarantees $90 million from 2030-34.

“Julio is among the most exciting players in the game and has only scratched the surface of what’s to come,” Seattle president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said in a statement.

“We feel the uniqueness of this deal befits the person. His infectious personality and ability on the field are only surpassed by his character away from it. We are thrilled that generations of Mariners fans will have the privilege of watching him play in T-Mobile Park for many years to come.”

Rodriguez’s contract is baseball’s 26th for $200 million or more. The deal for the All-Star rookie includes a $15.3 million signing bonus payable within 60 days and salaries of $4 million next year, $10 million and $18 million annually from 2025-29. He gets a full no-trade provision.

Seattle’s option calls for $25 million annual salaries from 2030-37. Rodriguez has a player option that could be exercised after the 2029 World Series, a provision calling for $18 million annually from 2030-34. There is a mutual option that could add $168 million from 2030-36.

His salary as a rookie is the $700,000 minimum.

“He’s learned a lot over the last 4 1/2, five months about Major League Baseball and things he needed to work on and continue to improve upon,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said Friday. “Really good teammate. I mean, you can go on and on describing where he’s at. But there’s a lot of baseball, really good baseball ahead of him and I know that’s what excites me and the organization.”

Rodriguez has become a star in his first season with the Mariners. He blossomed from starting spring training as the possible opening day starter in center field to an All-Star in his first season.

Rodriguez is hitting .267 with 20 home runs, 64 RBIs, 23 stolen bases and an OPS of .793. When he homered on Wednesday, Rodriguez became the fastest player in American League history to reach the mark of 20 homers and 20 stolen bases, surpassing Mike Trout.

Rodriguez is the leading candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year and has helped Seattle be in playoff position entering the final stretch of the regular season with a chance to end the longest postseason drought in major pro spots

“I was fortunate enough, I worked for the Angels a little bit when Mike Trout was coming on board there and Mike’s the greatest player in the last decade without a doubt,” Servais said.

“Julio has got a lot ahead of him, but they’re similar. Personalities are much different but on the field they’re very similar talents They’re five-tool players. They can run, throw. They have power. … I’m just looking forward to having him as part of the organization for a long, long time.”

If Rodriguez wins two or more MVP awards and finishes among the top five in MVP voting in four years, the salaries for the club option years would increase to $35 million and the option would extend to cover the 2038 and 2039 seasons. For one MVP award along with one additional top five finish or three top five finishes, the option salaries would increase to $35 million without the 2038 and ’39 seasons triggered.

For four top 10 MVP finishes, the option prices would increase to $32.5 million and the for two top 10 finishes, the option price would go up to $30 million.

If the club option is declined, the deal includes a mutual option that could be exercised after the 2029 World Series and call for $24 million annially from 2030-36.

If both the team option and mutual option are turned down, Rodriguez has a player option that could be exercised after the 2029 World Series, a provision callng for $18 million annually from 2030-34.

The player option salaries would escalate to $25 million annually for one MVP award and two All-Star selections or elections, $22 million for 10 combined All-Star elections or selections and Silver Slugger wins, and $20 million for eight combined All-Star elections or selections and Silver Slugger wins.

Rodriguez has yearly award bonuses of $150,000 for MVP, $100,000 for World Series MVP, $50,000 each for League Championship Series MVP, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove, $50,000 for All-Star election and $25,000 for All-Star selection.

Rodriguez already was a burgeoning star with his performance in the first half of the season, but broke out on a national stage during the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Rodriguez reached the final where he lost to Juan Soto, but had a memorable first two rounds where he hit 63 total home runs and beat Corey Seager and Pete Alonso.

On top of his pure talent, Rodriguez’s demeanor and charisma on the field have only added to what’s could be a special season for the Mariners. His smile and joy for the game has been reminiscent of a past center fielder for the Mariners and some of the same characteristics Ken Griffey Jr. showed early in his career.

Rodriguez was part of some controversial comments made by former Mariners team president Kevin Mather that came to light in early 2021. Mather’s comments were made to the Bellevue, Washington, Breakfast Rotary Club in February 2021 and included disparaging comments about the English of Rodriguez and former Seattle pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. Mather resigned within days of his comments becoming public.

Servais praised Rodriguez’s English on Friday as part of handling the attention that’s come his way at age 21.

“I’ve said this often, his ability to command the English language at such an early age has really helped,” Servais said. “It’s not easy. If any of you have gone to a foreign country and tried to pick up the language there, it’s really challenging. For him to do that at such an early age, it’s really helped him. It’s helped him on the field. It’s helped him off the field and in relationship building and everything else.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.