Julio Rodriguez and the Seattle Mariners agreed to a mega contract extension. Rodriguez’s extension has the potential to max out at $470 million — which would be the most any player makes throughout a contract in the history of Major League Baseball — over 18 years. However, there are many complex details in his contract which are outlined in this Tweet by Jeff Passan:
Rodriguez’s extension comes well before he’s eligible for arbitration; this seems to be a new trend as in just the last few months Yordan Alvarez, Michael Harris II, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Aaron Ashby are among notable players to also sign extensions before they hit arbitration.
In July of 2017, Rodriguez, then a 17-year-old, signed with the Mariners as an international free agent for $1.75 million. Rodriguez was always considered among the elite prospects throughout his time in the minor leagues and he was named the third best prospect in baseball entering the 2022 season by MLB.com.
Despite his top prospect status, it was unknown whether or not Rodriguez would be on the Mariners’ Opening Day roster. However, after an impressive spring training and with the Mariners looking to win now, J-Rod was announced as the starting center fielder shortly before the regular season began.
Expectations were high for J-Rod, but he had a brutal stretch at the plate in his first month as a Major Leaguer. In his first 20 games, Rodriguez hit an abysmal .205/.284/.260 (61 wRC+), to go along with an insanely bad 37.0 K%, while also not yet hitting his Major League home run.
However, once the calendar turned to May, Rodriguez started showing why he was labeled as one of the best young talents in baseball. From May-July J-Rod’s 3.1 fWAR was the 13th best among 161 qualified position players. Rodriguez drastically improved at the plate over these three months hitting .288/.347/.538 (155 wRC+), cut his strikeout rate by 12.3%, and hit 18 home runs.
Rodriguez has cooled off in August, but his struggles are likely linked to a right wrist injury he suffered on July 31st. Rodriguez check swung on a 97-mile-per-hour fastball, but instead of the ball hitting the bat, it hit his wrist. Rodriguez and the Mariners avoided the worst, as Rodriguez only required a short stint on the 10-day injured list.
Rodriguez isn’t just a great hitter, he’s a well-rounded player. Rodriguez is one of the best base runners in the Major Leagues this season as he has stolen 23 bases and has a very good 3.4 BsR. Additionally, Rodriguez has played a rock solid center field as he has 5 OAA and 2 DRS.
Rodriguez’s extension is a huge step forward for the Mariners’ front office. Considering how the Nationals’ fallout with Juan Soto unraveled, I’m sure the Mariners wanted to do anything in their power to avoid a similar situation. By paying Rodriguez now, the Mariners are not only committed to him, but they’ve also shown the world they’re committed to winning. Once players start hitting free agency, Seattle could become one of the preferred destinations among the game’s top talent.
Unlike Fernando Tatis Jr.’s extension with the Padres back in 2021, the Mariners didn’t straight up guarantee J-Rod $340 million. The Mariners did a great job by including performance-based incentives, so Rodriguez is “only” guaranteed $210 million.
As for Rodriguez himself, the deal makes a lot of sense for him too. At the very least, he’ll walk away from this deal with $210 million. While that’s not what either side is necessarily looking for, it’s a very nice safety net for Rodriguez. If Rodriguez continues to play well and further develop as both parties expect, he could become the highest-paid player in the sport.
At the end of the day, the Seattle Mariners and Julio Rodriguez both want him to succeed. If Rodriguez is performing to the level he’s being paid, the Mariners are likely winning and contending year in and year out to win the World Series. If Rodriguez is playing well, he’ll make even more money and I’m sure he’d love that the team is also winning.