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Julio Rodriguez Is a Gamble Worth Taking for the Mariners

Ryan Phillips
Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages
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The Seattle Mariners and rookie outfielder Julio Rodriguez are in the process of finalizing what could be the largest contract in American sports history. The two sides are nearing agreement on a deal that could max out at 18 years and $470 million, if the player hits incentive-based benchmarks. While the contract extension would be a massive gamble for the Mariners, it is absolutely one worth taking.

The 21-year-old Rodriguez is a bonafide five-tool centerfielder who has become a star as a rookie. After struggling through a slow April (.544 OPS), he has been outstanding. In 108 games he's slashing .269/.328/.471 with 20 home runs, 19 doubles, 64 RBI, 23 stolen bases and a 3.5 fWAR. He has played decent defense in center field and his speed can be game-changing. But more than anything he provides juice to a Mariners team in position to make the MLB playoffs for the first time in 21 years.

The contract is positively massive. ESPN's Jeff Passan has the details:

The deal, expected to be announced soon, offers a number of iterations, sources said. The base deal is for $120 million and lasts through the 2029 season. Following the 2028 season, the Mariners can exercise an option for an additional eight or 10 years, depending on where Rodriguez finishes in MVP voting in the preceding seasons.

If the Mariners turn down the option, Rodriguez can exercise a five-year, $90 million player option after the 2029 season or hit free agency just shy of his 30th birthday.

The Mariners' option is where the potential money can grow into a historically large figure. If Rodriguez maxes out his MVP escalators, Seattle's option would be for 10 years and $350 million, taking the total value of the deal to $470 million through 2039. The lowest level would be for eight years and $200 million on top of the original $120 million, keeping Rodriguez tied to the Mariners through 2037.

Rodriguez is the first major star the Mariners have developed since Felix Hernandez, and the first star in the field to be homegrown since Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez could be Seattle's new Ken Griffey Jr. The team couldn't pass up the chance to lock him up.

Rodriguez is an uber-talented young player with the personality to bring fans to games. He's capable of exciting plays of the kind people talk about for weeks in the field and at the plate. This deal is the obvious move for Seattle, even if it carries massive risk.

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