Sandy locks up deal: 'I love the city so much'

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MIAMI -- "I love Miami too much."

For Marlins fans, Sandy Alcantara's words were reminiscent of what 1997 World Series hero Livan Hernandez proclaimed following the franchise's first title. On Wednesday morning, the organization held a press conference announcing the signing of Alcantara to a five-year extension worth $56 million, with a club option for 2027. The hope is that Miami's ace can take it back to the promised land.

The length and value is the largest for a first-year arbitration-eligible pitcher in MLB history and the longest tenured to a player under the current ownership group. Alcantara's signing is the second extension the Marlins have completed so far this offseason. In October, Miami signed shortstop and unofficial captain Miguel Rojas to a deal that will keep him in South Florida through 2023.

"We got here four years ago, we talked about building an organization that has sustainable success," chief executive officer Derek Jeter said. "We've seen him work extremely hard over the years and continue to improve and continue to get better, not only on the mound but also being a leader in the clubhouse. So we couldn't be more excited that Sandy's going to be with us for a very, very long time."

The 26-year-old Alcantara is a symbol of this ownership's progress. He came over in the Marcell Ozuna trade of December 2017, joining right-hander Zac Gallen, left-hander Daniel Castano and outfielder Magneuris Sierra in South Florida during the early stages of the build.

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Since then, it has been a gradual ascension. In parts of four seasons with the Marlins, Alcantara has a 3.48 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in 78 starts. He was named an All-Star in 2019, and when the club reached the playoffs for the first time in 17 years in '20, the right-hander started Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series and the NL Division Series. In ‘21, Alcantara became the third-youngest Marlin (25 years and 206 days old) to make consecutive Opening Day starts. By season's end, he was the first Marlin to record 200 strikeouts and 200 innings in a season since A.J. Burnett in ‘02.

Alcantara is tied for third in MLB in shutouts (two), sixth in complete games (three), eighth in innings (445), 16th in starts (72) and 22nd in opponents' batting average (.231) since 2019.

"I've been here for a couple years," Alcantara said. "I see everything the Marlins been [doing] coming true. I know everything they do. I love the city so much. I know we can win one day. I said it last year, but we didn't make it, but we've got more opportunities to keep competing to win the game and win a World Series."

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The Azua, Dominican Republic native will get that chance by fronting Miami's young rotation for years to come, with some mix of Pablo López, NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Trevor Rogers, Jesús Luzardo, Elieser Hernandez as well as Top 100 prospects Sixto Sánchez and Edward Cabrera. Despite injuries and setting a franchise record with 18 starters, the Marlins' rotation ranked 13th in the Majors with a 4.08 ERA.

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Miami's next step is adding offensive support, and the organization has taken its first steps by signing Avisaíl García and trading for Joey Wendle. Gold Glove-winning catcher Jacob Stallings will be behind the plate to work with the staff.

"As I looked at the club from Spring Training on, it really crystallized to me that Sandy was that quintessential ace of the staff," said general manager Kim Ng. "I think in terms of building our foundation, Sandy possesses all the things that we look for in players between talent, performance, leadership in the clubhouse, dedication, work ethic, and I think a singularity and focus in bringing all of himself to the ballpark every single day and imparting his wisdom and his knowledge and really setting an example for the rest of our club."

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