Rodriguez’s blockbuster contract with the Mariners is rightly unique

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SEATTLE — Julio Rodriguez was a few minutes late for his own party, the result of Seattle’s traffic management that will be part of his daily routine at home for probably the next decade — and potentially much longer.

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When Rodriguez arrived on Saturday to discuss his massive contract extension, several teammates and coaches who embraced the 21-year-old in his first season were seated at the back of the room.

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« It’s not about the contract and how long it lasts. I would love to be a Mariner for the rest of my career and play for the Mariners fans, » Rodriguez said. « I would love to be here for the rest of my life. career, playing with a lot of these guys here and being managed by Scott (Servais), having Ty (France) as a babysitter. I sincerely mean it. I like being here.

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Rodriguez signed baseball’s 26th contract for $200 million or more on Friday, securing a long-term future as a cornerstone for the Mariners. It’s a unique and complicated deal that could reach nearly $470 million and suits a rising star with the talent and charisma to lure a region desperate to win baseball.

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It was evident to no one in the audience that Rodriguez’s Seattle deal almost never happened. Only a last-second effort when Rodriguez signed in July 2017 at the age of 16 brought him to Seattle when it looked like the Angels were his destination.

« It’s very cool to go around town and see the (No) 44 jerseys, » said Rodriguez, from the Dominican Republic. « And it really touched my heart because, as I said, I come from a place, Loma de Cabrera, 20,000 people, and there were more people in the stands yesterday than in my hometown. So that’s pretty special to me.

As much as the parties didn’t want Saturday’s event to focus on the contract, it’s a unique deal. The first conversations took place in early July about whether Rodriguez would be interested in a deal that would cement his future in Seattle. The response from his representatives was that he must be unique considering the player.

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What started as a simple basic contract and grew through conversations was not completed until just before the official announcement on Friday evening.

« We started with something that looked very basic and came out with something that looked like hieroglyphics, » Seattle baseball operations president Jerry Dipoto said. « But again, the uniqueness of trying to capture what Julio has a chance to achieve in his career and being fair with him on what it might look like in the end was a challenge. »

There was no round trip. It was a collaborative evolution of the deal that Seattle needs, Rodriguez’s potential and created different points of flexibility.

But it’s complicated.

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In its simplest form, the deal is a 12-year, $209.3 million contract starting next season. It could be worth $469.6 million over 17 years if he wins two MVP awards.

The contract includes seven seasons, a five-year player option, an eight-year club option with price escalations and the possibility that the option could be extended to 10 years.

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If the club’s option is exercised, the deal would be worth $309.3 million over 12 years. If Rodriguez wins two MVP awards by 2028 or finishes in the top five by voting four times, the deal would grow to $469.6 million, including postseason bonuses.

If Seattle declines a one-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 for $168 million from 2030-36. There is also a player option that guarantees $90 million from 2030 to 2034.

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« The very first conversation set the tone, » Rodriguez’s rep Ulises Cabrera said, describing the development of the deal. « If we’re going to look at this in the typical lens, it won’t work. And so there will probably be points in this conversation where what I say won’t make sense. And what you say won’t make sense. neither does it make sense. But we’re going to have to be comfortable with that because, right now, we’re kind of starting something that we don’t have any plans to point to.

The contract also includes a full no-trade clause. Some of the escalators tied to the MVP deal and vote were suggestions for Rodriguez’s side and bets on his continued production growth.

« There were a lot of lanes that helped lead Julio to various stops along the way, and what could we do to recognize his potential at this (point), » Dipoto said. « And what we did was we focused on a variety of different contracts that had been made in the league and we stole parts of them and then we created something in that space, recognizing that no one never really done that before. »

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