Mariners prospect White inks historic 6-year deal

Prospect is 4th player to sign long-term contract before reaching bigs

November 26th, 2019

SEATTLE -- Evan White has yet to play a game in Major League Baseball, but the 23-year-old first baseman finalized a long-term contract on Monday that secures his future with the Mariners for at least the next six years.

The Mariners announced the deal after White passed a physical exam on Monday in Seattle. A press conference was held on Monday afternoon at T-Mobile Park.

MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis first reported on Friday that the 2017 first-round Draft pick had agreed to a six-year contract for a guaranteed $24 million, with three additional club option years that could take the deal to as high as $55.5 million. White is ranked No. 58 among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects and No. 4 among Mariners prospects.

“Evan White stands out in so many ways,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “We love the player and we love the person. The combination made it very easy to want to sign him for the better part of the next decade.

“We believe this is the next stage in a long-term investment in our young players, in bringing together young, core players who have a ton of talent and are also high-character people.”

White becomes just the fourth player in MLB history to sign a long-term contract before reaching the Majors and the first lacking experience above the Double-A level. But the Mariners are high on the former Kentucky standout, who is regarded as an elite defensive first baseman and posted a .293/.350/.488 slash line with 18 homers and 55 RBIs in 92 games for Double-A Arkansas last season. Though White played in four games at the Triple-A level in 2018, he spent the entire 2019 season with Arkansas. No player at the Double-A level has previously received a long-term extension.

The only other players to sign long-term deals before having any MLB service time are Eloy Jiménez of the White Sox (last March), Scott Kingery with the Phillies (2018) and Jon Singleton with the Astros (2014).

Jimenez, 22, signed a six-year, $43 million deal with two club options and just completed his first season in Chicago, finishing fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting after hitting .267 with 31 home runs in 122 games.

Kingery, 25, signed a six-year, $24 million deal with three club options with the Phillies that was very similar to what White has agreed upon. He has hit .242 with 27 home runs in 273 games over his first two seasons in the Majors.

Singleton, 28, signed a five-year, $10 million deal with the Astros, but then hit just .171 with 14 homers in 114 games in 2014-15 and hasn’t been in the Majors since.

Under MLB rules, all players are bound to a team for their first six years of Major League service time, with their salary for the first three years at the MLB minimum -- which was $555,000 last year -- and then three years of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency. So White’s deal would benefit him by eliminating the initial minimum salary years and guaranteeing his long-term security, while potentially benefiting the Mariners by avoiding the arbitration process and putting them in position to exercise club options for three additional years.

Dipoto has said White will be given a chance to earn the first-base job this spring when the Mariners report to Peoria, Ariz., with a club that is looking to give its young prospects a chance to blossom. Having a six-year contract in place could further open that door as there would be no incentive for the club to limit his service time, but he will still have to show he’s ready to hit at the MLB level, which is the biggest remaining question facing the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder.

White was not added to the Mariners as a September callup last season, with the club choosing to only bring up players who needed to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason anyway to avoid Rule 5 Draft exposure. White did spend the final few weeks with the Mariners -- along with fellow prospects Cal Raleigh and Logan Gilbert -- going to meetings and absorbing the experience, though not eligible to be on the bench or play in games.

Seattle finished last season with Austin Nola and Daniel Vogelbach splitting time at first base and both are still with the club, though Vogelbach is projected more as a designated hitter. The versatile Nola is capable of catching and playing second or third base as well, so White certainly has a path open if he’s ready.

“Evan is a really mature kid, and we're going to give him an opportunity in Spring Training and see where he goes,” Dipoto said at the end of the regular season. “We have enough depth with Vogey and with Austin Nola to believe that if it's Evan's time, we're going to give him the chance to make it his time.”