One month ago, when the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted All-Star Game, 21-year-old slugger Julio Rodriguez stole the show, dominating the Home Run Derby eventually won by Juan Soto and flashing the future of baseball wherever he walked, from the red carpet to the dugout.
Next season’s All-Star Game will be conveniently located at the home of the Seattle Mariners, giving baseball a prime opportunity to place Rodriguez front and center as their most joyous ambassador. When he steps up for his moment in the spotlight, he’ll be toting a flashy new contract.
Rodriguez reportedly signed a 14-year deal with the Mariners on Friday that guarantees him $210 million, but can (and should) grow to over $400 million in total earnings if he reaches a laundry list of incentives.
Which begs the question … do the Mariners have room for more than one mega-star locked up long-term? They should. Every team, theoretically, does. But if the Red Sox and Yankees, big-market teams with massive ownership coffers, can’t pay up for Rafael Devers, Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge, then would the Mariners really be able to add Shohei Ohtani to their roster after making their play for Rodriguez?
And if the Mariners aren’t an Ohtani suitor, who’s left other than the Angels (under new management) and Dodgers?
Does Julio Rodriguez contract send Shohei Ohtani to Dodgers?
Truly, which other teams that follow Ohtani’s wishlist parameters can compete? The Yankees are out; he eliminated them first back in 2017, and would surely do so again. The Red Sox? The Mets? Would he really head east, after claiming the desire to avoid it last time?
The Padres, if they decline to extend Juan Soto after sacrificing their entire farm to obtain him? Otherwise, it seems the Los Angeles area may be Ohtani’s future home regardless of his choice, considering it’s hard to imagine the Mariners having $400 million more to commit to one player (and, fine, two positions).
A union between Ohtani and the Mariners would’ve continued a long history of Seattle as a pipeline of Japanese baseball talent — and, heck, it still could, if the Mariners’ ownership wants to go way above and beyond to both break their playoff drought and become the 2010-11 Miami Heat in the process.
But Ohtani joining the Mariners is far unlikelier today than it was yesterday, and until the Angels are sold, their ability to be a player in this market remains undetermined. The Dodgers have the clearest path, unless Ohtani is willing to make some serious concessions just to avoid the perception that he’s switching sides in an invented rivalry.