Breaking: The Julio Rodriguez Contract
The Seattle Mariners and Julio Rodriguez- in his rookie year- have agreed to a 14/$210M (with bonuses) contract. Let's talk about it.
This is the New Normal...
The go-to move for front offices in baseball over the past few years, usually occurring once a year, has been to start signing the players we expect to be superstars early early on in their MLB careers. Julio Rodriguez is the latest to do so.
Going into the 2019 season, on April 2nd, 2019, the Atlanta Braves signed Ronald Acuna Jr. to a 8-year/$100 Million contract ($12.5M AAV). He had played just 111 games at the MLB level before signing that contract.
After the 2019 season, on November 25th, 2019, the Seattle Mariners tried to get ahead of this by signing Evan White to a 6-year/$24 Million contract ($4M AAV). He had yet to play in the MLB before signing the contract. Better yet, he hadn't even played above the Double-A level!
Going into the 2021 season, on February 2nd, 2021, the San Diego Padres signed Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year/$340 Million contract ($24.3M AAV). He had played just 143 games at the MLB level over two seasons before signing this contract.
Right after the 2022 season, on November 27th, 2021, the Tampa Bay Rays signed Wander Franco to a 11-year/$182 Million contract ($16.5M AAV). In this deal there are escalators for salary dependent on MVP voting for Franco. He had played just 70 games at the MLB.
Today, on August 26th, 2022 the Seattle Mariners signed Julio Rodriguez to a 14-year/$210 Million ($15M AAV). In this deal there are escalators for salary (at the current time that are unknown) that can raise the total value over $450 Million ($32.1M AAV) and could expand to over 20 years given player and team options. He has played just 108 games in the MLB up to when he signed this contract.
Is this Worthwhile?
If we look at it subjectively, I can't fault either the Seattle Mariners or Julio Rodriguez and his agents.
The Seattle Mariners are a team that have gone the last 20 seasons (2002-2021) without making the playoffs. There most recent superstars- Ichiro Suzuki, Felix Hernandez- saw just 10 playoff games over 2 series during their time in Seattle (all from Suzuki in 2001). They have finally started to develop another solid core for the future and have the option to lock up a player on a team friendly deal to make sure the next decade plus does not go the same way as the prior two.
Julio Rodriguez is a 21-year-old kid with practically no MLB experience. The list of players who had miraculous rookie campaigns without ever amount to much of anything is very very very long. While he is a fabulous player right now- and would not have the attitude that he'll flame out- this is a guaranteed $210,000,000 dollars over 14 years. That amount of money is going to net him, quite literally, $1,712 dollars per hour every hour (playing baseball or not) from the beginning of that contract to its end. In another frame, it's $92,592 dollars per game. Imagine making the equivalent of a top 13% salary in the US during every game and you can see why this type of money is very very very very very very hard to turn down at that age.
Nevertheless, Julio Rodriguez could suffer a career-ending injury tonight. God forbid- and I pray and hope he never does- but each day playing baseball there is a risk of your future career. At that type of salary, setting yourself, your family for the next infinite number of generations (with proper investing) is very hard to say no to.
Part of this is why watching Aaron Judge play amazing baseball this season is so inspiring. He could've had everything he'd ever want by signing with the Yankees on an extension, but he took a real big shot on himself instead.
The big question is if the Yankees are going to take this approach with their budding stars when they make the MLB.
It seems to be something the smaller market teams tend to do, taking risk to save themselves money in the future, but it doesn't take a genius to realize that doing this with the right player (aka Ronald Acuna) will pay off tremendously.