Julio Rodríguez agrees to big extension to stay in Seattle

Sports

SEATTLE (AP) — Julio Rodríguez and the Seattle Mariners are set on a long-term relationship in the Pacific Northwest.

The Mariners and Rodríguez agreed to a massive contract extension on Friday that is likely to keep the rookie All-Star in Seattle for most of this decade and potentially quite a bit longer.

The deal is a seven-year extension covering the 2023-29 seasons, the Mariners announced during Seattle’s game against Cleveland just before Rodríguez came to the plate in the sixth inning. Club options could extend the deal through the 2039 season, while Rodriguez holds a player option that provides guarantees through the 2034 season.

MLB.com first reported the agreement and ESPN said the deal will guarantee at least $210 million with the potential to top $400 million over the life of the contract.

“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.”

Seattle manager Scott Servais deflected when asked directly about the contract before Friday’s game against Cleveland. But he had glowing remarks about Rodríguez’s first season.

“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,” Servais said. “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.”

The 21-year-old Rodríguez 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.

Rodríguez entered Friday hitting .269 with 20 home runs, 64 RBIs, 23 stolen bases and an OPS of .799. When he homered on Wednesday, Rodríguez became the fastest player in American League history to reach the mark of 20 homers and 20 stolen bases, surpassing Mike Trout.

Rodríguez 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.”

Rodríguez was already 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. Rodríguez 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, Rodríguez’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.

Rodríguez 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 Rodríguez’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.”

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