The Mariners’ belief in Evan White as a player, and also a person, is taking them down a financial path that no team has ventured with a player.
MLB sources confirm a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that the Mariners and White have agreed to a six-year, $24 million contract with three club options. If the Mariners exercise the club options, the total amount of money in the deal could reach over $55 million.
While the financial terms have been agreed upon, White must still take and pass an extensive physical before the deal is finalized. Sources indicate the contract won’t be announced this weekend, but likely Monday at the earliest.
While a few players without major-league experience have been signed to long-term contracts, White is the first player who has never played above the Class AA level to earn such a deal. At the end of last season, White and his representatives from True Gravity Agency started pushing for a deal that would provide financial and professional security.
That the Mariners were willing to make this sort of financial commitment is a testament not only to White’s potential on the field, but their trust in him off the field as the type of person who is mature and committed enough to handle this situation.
Rated as the Mariners’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, White is already a major-league-ready first baseman from a defensive and athletic standpoint. The only question is whether he will hit enough to be viable on an everyday basis. He’s shown glimpses of that since being taken in the first round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Kentucky.
This past season with Class AA Arkansas, White posted a .293/.350/.488 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) with 13 doubles, two triples, 18 homers and 55 RBI in 92 games while helping lead Arkansas to the Texas League playoffs. While the numbers aren’t eye-popping, they are better than they appear at first glance due to the miserable hitting conditions in Little Rock. He’s considered to be a core piece of the “step-back” process based on his talent and leadership skills. He’s considered a Top 100 prospect in baseball: MLB.com (No. 58), Baseball America (No. 73) and FanGraphs (No. 77).
White will head to spring training with a chance to win the everyday first-base job in a competition with veteran Austin Nola. This contract doesn’t guarantee him a spot on the opening-day roster. There is still a chance that Seattle starts him with Class AAA Tacoma for the first few months of the season before bringing him up to the MLB level.
From a historical standpoint, this contract is similar to the deal the Phillies gave to then-promising prospect Scott Kingery, who signed a six-year, $24 million contract with three club options just before the 2018 season despite having never played in an MLB game. Kingery’s average annual salary was $4 million, but the actual yearly salary grew at increments from $750,000 in the first year to $8 million in the final year. The club-option years were between $13-15 million dollars.After a slow 2018 season where he posted a .226/.267/.338 slash line, Kingery posted a .258/.315/.474 line this season with 34 doubles, four triples, 19 homers and 55 RBI in 126 games.
With Seattle’s payroll commitments decreasing significantly in the next few years, the team will likely follow a similar progression with White’s yearly salary.
If White can hit at a commensurate level in the big leagues to even come close to matching his defense, the contract and commitment will be beyond beneficial to their overall payroll in their rebuild plans.