The J-Rod Show is staying in Seattle! This afternoon, it was reported that Julio Rodríguez and the Mariners were nearing a massive extension, with a ton of specific details that affect the overall terms of the deal. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez was first to report the extension was happening, and ESPN’s Jeff Passan then reported it was worth a guaranteed $210 million.
About two hours after the news first broke, Passan explained the details in a Twitter thread. The terms are unusual, and, quite frankly, hilarious to see spelled out. “The deal could be for 8, 13, 16 or 18 years. It guarantees Rodriguez $210 million. If it maxes out, it will be the largest ever: $470 million,” Passan’s first tweet reads.
The deal starts at eight years and $120 million, per Passan, that runs through 2029. Then things get fun. After the seventh year, or ‘28, the Mariners have a club option for eight or 10 years. The overall value of that option depends on how J-Rod finishes in the MVP voting. If Seattle picks up the option, though, the extension will be for a guaranteed $320 million. If the Mariners do not pick up J-Rod’s club option, he will be under contract for one more year before it’s time for his option. After the 2029 season, he can decide to stay with Seattle for five years and $90 million—which is how we get to the $210 million figure that Passan reported as the deal’s floor—or hit free agency before he turns 30, where he’d certainly sign for more than $90 million over five years.
The extension also includes a full no-trade clause, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who also reported the specifics for how J-Rod’s MVP finishes will affect the deal. Rosenthal also reported Rodríguez’s five-year option could increase to $125.5 million depending on All-Star appearances and Silver Slugger awards and that there’s a $15 million signing bonus. Yes, we’re going to need a billboard-sized flowchart to keep track of all the terms once they are finalized.
The most likely outcome is that the Mariners pick up Rodríguez’s option and keep him in Seattle for what could be the length of his entire career. There’s no reason to expect anything else. J-Rod is the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr. Like The Kid, J-Rod is a five-tool center fielder with a magnetic personality that already is captivating the game.
This extension surely means a lot for Rodríguez and the Mariners moving forward, as well as for baseball as a whole. Stephanie Apstein will have a column on SI.com this weekend about that, so keep an eye out!
But today I want to look at the other significance of this deal: its impact on Seattle. As we’ve seen in the past with Griffey, Edgar Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki, Russell Wilson and Sue Bird, just to name a few, the city’s sports scene flourishes when it has stars. The thing is, before the J-Rod extension, the long-term future of Seattle superstardom looked pretty uncertain. Wilson is now playing for the Broncos following an offseason trade. Bird is retiring after the WNBA playoffs, and Breanna Stewart is a pending free agent who before this season signed a one-year contract, presumably so that she could play with Bird one last time.
It’s true that J-Rod is only a rookie, and therefore would have been around for another five seasons after this one. But without a long-term deal, there was a chance, even a likelihood, that he would test free agency and sign with the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets or any of the other big-money organizations. Now, that is almost certainly not going to happen.
Also, don’t get caught up in those options. The Mariners are the ones with all the control here; the club option comes first, so if they pick up theirs, his disappears. And there’s no logical reason to expect that they won’t do that. He is perhaps the only baseball player who can make the Mariners the No. 1 sporting attraction in Seattle for most of the next two decades, or nearly the length of their current postseason drought (which is probably going to end this year, in no small part because of J-Rod). If that is not the case, it will be because the Seahawks, Storm, Reign and/or Kraken went out and signed, traded for or developed a star even brighter than J-Rod. In that event, the entire Seattle sports scene wins. There is no downside.
1. THE OPENER
“Baltimore’s Adley Rutschman and Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez have separated themselves from an impressive pack of first-year players and appear destined for stardom for the next decade and beyond. The result is one of those races that we’ll likely look back on as both a proper recognition of two superb debuts, as well as a prelude for what was to come.”
That’s Nick Selbe, writing in his column about the American League Rookie of the Year race. He breaks down the two stars, whose teams are competing with each other for one of the three AL wild-card spots.
J-Rod vs. Adley Rutschman Is One Fascinating AL Rookie of the Year Race by Nick Selbe
They are leading their wayward franchises out of the darkness. Which one has the edge to take home the hardware?
Let’s run through some of our other great SI baseball stories from this week.
The Little League World Series Is 75 and Still Growing by Matt Martell
The most widely watched youth sporting event in the world is more than just summertime programming for ESPN—it’s a competition spreading baseball across the globe.
Most Little Leaguers Dream of the Big Leagues. He Dreamed of Dentistry by Emma Baccellieri
When Robert Woolery played in the 1956 Little League World Series, he told SI that his goal wasn’t MLB. Here’s what happened.
Good Riddance, Arte Moreno. Thanks for Wasting Trout and Ohtani by Will Laws
He announced his intention to sell the team on Tuesday after years of bad signings, mismanagement and utter incompetence.
The Chase for 700 (and the NL Central Crown) by Dan Gartland
Albert Pujols and the Cardinals are on a tear.
Yankees Searching for Superstitious Solutions Amid Skid by Stephanie Apstein
Changing cleats? Check. Burning sage? Check. Nothing has worked yet for New York as it tries to escape a frustrating slump, but not for a lack of trying.
With no clock, an easy, meandering rhythm and distinctly segmented action, fielders have the space and time to actually have a conversation. So far, it’s been a blast.
3. WORTH NOTING from Tom Verducci
Just when it appeared the White Sox were heading toward “their ceiling” with a five-game winning streak this month, they have lost six out of eight. At 63–62 and trailing Cleveland by four games in the AL Central, the White Sox look profoundly mediocre. The proverbial “run” everybody thinks might be coming may be wishful thinking more than anything 125 games would suggest.
What’s wrong with the team that won the division last year with 93 wins? O.K., injuries are a factor. The White Sox are without Tim Anderson, Michael Kopech and Yasmani Grandal. But injuries are a part of today’s game. Twelve teams have lost more player days to the IL than the Sox. So it’s not that.
The real problem is they don’t play a style of baseball that lends itself to long runs of winning baseball. They are a poor defensive team (25th in Defensive Runs Saved). On offense, they chase way too much (only the Tigers have fewer walks and chase more) and they don’t hit enough home runs (only four teams have hit fewer). On the bases, only the Giants take the extra base less often. Those are fundamental flaws.
The Sox have been outscored by 32 runs this year. They have 37 games to finally find their “run.” They have not been better than 22–15 in any 37-game span this year. So even if they start playing their best baseball of the year, they’ll finish with 85 wins, which probably is not enough to grab a postseason spot.
4. W2W4 from Nick Selbe
The slate of competitive series is a bit thin this weekend, with just three matchups featuring teams that are both within five games of a playoff spot. But it’s something of a miracle that one of those series involves … the Orioles! Baltimore is a mere three games back of the third wild-card spot in the American League, and will head to Houston to take on the first-place Astros. The Orioles will face Justin Verlander in Sunday’s finale, putting added emphasis on winning at least one of the first two games. With a road trip to Cleveland next, this feels like a make-or-break stretch for the upstart birds. Nothing a little Orioles Magic can’t help.
The other marquee AL matchup is the Guardians’ trip to Seattle. Friday’s pitching matchup between Shane Bieber and Logan Gilbert is the one to highlight. Elsewhere, the Braves head to St. Louis for a potential postseason pairing. Atlanta took three out of four from the Cardinals in their first meeting, and will turn to rookie sensation Spencer Strider to get things started on Friday.
5. THE CLOSER from Matt Martell
Paul Goldschmidt is the runaway favorite to win the National League MVP award, and after two home runs yesterday, he now has 33 on the season and is only two behind Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber for the league lead. He enters this weekend with a .339 batting average and 105 RBIs, both of which are the best in the senior circuit, meaning he has a legitimate shot at winning the Triple Crown.
Miguel Cabrera is MLB’s most recent Triple Crown winner, in 2012, when he won the first of his two consecutive AL MVP awards. But you have to go back 85 years to find the last NL player to win the Triple Crown. That was Hall of Famer Joe “Ducky” Medwick, who played with the Cardinals and hit .374 with 31 home runs and 154 RBIs in 1937.
Those are some gaudy numbers for the Duckster, but here’s what makes Goldy’s season even more remarkable: He has a 200 OPS+ this season through 118 games, meaning he’s 100% better than the league-average hitter. That’s the same mark that Stan Musial had in his magnum opus 1948 campaign, when he led the league in nearly every offensive category: average (.376), on-base percentage (.450), slugging percentage (.702), hits (230), runs (135), doubles (46), triples (18), RBIs (131), total bases (429) and OPS+.
The glaring exception? Home runs. The Man hit 39 dingers that season, one behind league leaders Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize. But, there was one game that season in which Musial hit a homer that didn’t count; it was called due to rain too early to qualify as an official game. At the time, when that happened, the game would be restarted at a later date instead of resumed. Otherwise, Musial would’ve been the most recent NL Triple Crown winner.
Either way, that’s the company that Goldschmidt is keeping this season. And in case you’re wondering, Medwick’s OPS+ in 1937 was 182.