The Seattle Mariners just became the next team to lock up a homegrown superstar. Hopefully, the Washington Nationals are paying attention.
It has become increasingly common for MLB teams to lock up their young stars long-term as early as possible. The Atlanta Braves are a prime example — extending Ronald Acuña Jr. (8 years, $100 million) Ozzie Albies (7 years, $35 million), Matt Olson *8 years, $165 million), and Austin Riley (10 years, $212 million). Neither Acuña Jr. nor Albies had reached arbitration before signing their extensions. The Padres and Rays are other teams to ensure they will be able to keep their face of the franchise for the majority of their careers — extending Fernando Tatís Jr. (14 years, $340 million) and Wander Franco (11 years, $182 million) respectively.
The Seattle Mariners are the most recent team to join this trend, locking up rookie Julio Rodríguez for the foreseeable future. The extension carries different options that can pay him up to $470 million. Rodríguez is the frontrunner to win AL Rookie of the Year (though Adley Rutschman is right on his tail) and is hitting .267, with 20 homers, 64 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, and an OPS of .793.
After losing Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson all in free agency over 20 years ago, Seattle has shown they’ve learned from their mistakes — ensuring their current superstar isn’t going anywhere.
Hopefully, the Washington Nationals are taking notes — a franchise that has become synonymous with not paying their homegrown talent.
Four years ago, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, and Trea Turner were the driving force of the team with the future extremely bright. Fast forward to now and only Strasburg remains — unfortunately sidelined for the third straight season with an injury. Harper and Rendon both left in free agency, while Turner, Scherzer, and Soto were all traded away as the Nationals entered a rebuild.
In their place, is a revamped farm system including two top 100 prospects and four players that have joined Washington’s major league roster. While the Washington Nationals are on the right track to returning to relevance, it hurts to see other teams accomplish something Washington couldn’t.
To make matters worst, Rodríguez is only a rookie with one All-Star appearance under his belt, yet Seattle decided they have seen enough to make the long-term commitment. Harper, the first superstar from their previous core they let walk — won an MVP and was named to six All-Star teams in D.C. But that wasn’t enough for the Lerner’s to agree to open their wallets.
Fans can make the argument part of Washington’s struggles to extend their core stem from the majority of them being Scott Boras clients. But that is just an excuse. Earlier in the month, we wrote on the topic stating:
"But Boras isn’t to blame for the Lerner’s being unable to lock up their core. Strasburg proved in 2016 that if told, Boras will make sure a deal is reached. Rendon had similar comments entering the 2019 season.“The thing is, what everyone has the misconception of is, they think that we work for Scott,” Rendon told reporters during the 2018 off-season. “. . . That’s not the way it works. I’m telling him how it’s going and you can ask him. We’ve gotten into some jibber-jabbers before, too, so like, I’m paying him. Nah, that don’t fly with me.”"
With a new ownership group taking over come this off-season, hopefully, Washington will be able to lock up their future core and avoid going down this road.