4 More Years (at least): Blackmon, Rockies Agree on Deal
Charlie Blackmon became an outfielder by chance.
It is paying off.
Blackmon and the Rockies announced Wednesday agreement on a four-year contract that includes Blackmon having options on two additional seasons that could bring him $108 million in salary over six years. The deal answers the first of three long-term questions that had been looming over the Rockies coming into the 2018 season.
"We reached a basic agreement before the season started," said Blackmon. "I didn't want that going on once the season started. I didn't want any distractions. I am happy it is out of the way and I can just try and win games from here on out."
In addition to Blackmon, second baseman DJ LeMahieu has free-agent possibilities after this season, and third baseman Nolan Arenado could become a free agent after the 2019 season.
Blackmon had declined to discuss his contract situation during the spring, and LeMahieu and Arenado have taken a similar approach. They all said they did not want anything to distract from the focus being on the Rockies winning this season.
Blackmon, who came into the season with a one-year deal worth $14 million, will instead receive a $2 million signing bonus and salary of $12 million this year, and then $21 million in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Blackmon, who turns 32 on July 1, has options at $21 million in 2022, and $10 million in 2023. He's guaranteed at least $77 million for the next four seasons with his option to add another $31 million in 2022-23.
"To have a situation where he could potentially finished his career with us is huge," said Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich. "There is a risk on each side. He has to stay healthy. We are confident in Charlie being Charlie and what he does (in taking care of himself) that is possible and it is going to happen."
What a turn of events for Blackmon.
"It is nice to have the Rockies appreciate my hard work," he said. "It's a reward for sacrificing so much in college, high school and the minor leagues."
A year ago, Blackmon became one of only eight players, and the first since 1948, to have more than 130 runs scored, 210 hits, 30 doubles, 10 triples, 35 home runs and 100 RBI in a season. Lou Gehrig, who reached those numbers three times, is the only player to have done it more than once.
Blackmon was a left-handed relief specialist until the summer before his senior year at Georgia Tech. Battling some arm soreness his junior year, he had agreed to play for a collegiate summer league team in the Dallas area, and when he arrived he told the team's manager, former big-league outfielder Rusty Greer, he was an outfielder.
He has proven to be correct. The Rockies were impressed enough with what he did his final year at Georgia Tech that they selected him in the second round of the 2008 draft.
"It is a great story for the team, scouting and drafting and singing him, for the player development people, and for him to perform and become the player he has become," said Bridich. "It involved a lot of people and a lot of work.:
Blackmon has definitely become an elite outfielder, and one of the premiere lead-off hitters in the game.
Blackmon is coming off a season in which he won the NL batting title with a .331 average to go with 37 home runs and 104 RBI, including a record 103 RBI as a lead-off hitter.
An All-Star reserve in 2014, Blackmon started for the NL in center field in the 2017 All-Star game.
He has hit a Rockies record 28 lead-off home runs in his career, and his 43 stolen bases in 2008 was the fifth highest total in franchise history.
The announcement of signing Blackmon created an overwhelming reaction from Rockies fans, which Bridich said is a bonus, but was not the impetus for getting a deal done.
"You never know how the fans will react, but Charlie is beloved," said Bridich. "That is a nice by-product. We hoped the fans would be excited."
Bridich, however, explained the driving force wasn't marketing.
"In working on a deal like this you do it because you feel he will be a key factor in our success," said Bridich. "We signed this not just for the player, but also the person, the example he sets for so many people. "
It is a role Blackman embraces, particularly in light of what he sees when he looks at the talent not only on the Rockies big-league roster,but in the minor leagues and the commitment that was made during the winter when the Rockies re-signed free agent reliever Jake McGee along with adding free agent relievers Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw, and catcher Chris Iannetta.
"We've come a long ways as an organziation," he said. "You can tell by the additions that the Rockies are a competitive team and want to win. We have to stay the course. We have the foundation to be competitive for years to come."
Blackmon, after all, is living proof of what desire, determination and dedication can create.
In his case, it took a sore-armed, college relief pitcher and turned him into an impact big-league center fielder with long-term security.