DENVER – Now that Charlie Blackmon has agreed to a lucrative new deal, he can afford to trade in that Jeep Cherokee he’s had forever.
Only, that’s not how he rolls.
“I’m going to get some new tires,” he said.
That’s just Blackmon being Blackmon, the insightful and quirky leadoff hitter extraordinaire with the ragged beard and impressive mullet who will be patrolling the Colorado Rockies outfield for quite some time.
The N.L. batting champion made a long-term commitment Wednesday rather than test the free-agent market next offseason, agreeing to a contract that guarantees him $108 million over six seasons. It’s been in the works for most of spring training – and under the radar.
“I didn’t want to create distractions,” he said.
In January, the two-time All-Star center fielder agreed to a $14 million, one-year deal. The new agreement announced in San Diego, where the Rockies are playing a four-game series with the Padres, calls for a $2 million signing bonus payable within 30 days of the deal’s approval by the commissioner’s office, a $12 million salary this year and $21 million in each of the next three seasons.
Blackmon has player options of $21 million for 2022 and $10 million for 2023, and his 2023 salary can escalate up to $5 million based on plate appearances in 2022: $500,000 each for 400, 425, 450, 475, 500 and 525, and $1 million apiece for 550 and 575.
His 2023 salary would increase by $2 million if he is among the top three in MVP voting from 2018-22 and by $1 million if he finishes fourth or fifth. The 2023 salary is capped at $18 million.
As part of the deal negotiated by agents Sam and Seth Levinson, Blackmon can list 15 teams each season he can’t be traded to without his consent.
The deal follows an offseason in which many top free agents struggled to find lucrative long-term contracts.
“I knew this was going to be a big year for me, leading into this season, this season and what would happen after the season,” Blackmon said. “I weighed all my options and chose what I feel like is the best decision for me and my family and that’s to stay in Colorado.”
This potentially could open the door for a rich new deal with Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado, who’s eligible to become a free agent after the 2019 World Series.
“I did speak to Nolan a little bit in spring training about his future and obviously how that relates to my future,” Blackmon said. “I’d love for those futures to be together. I think he’s a very important part of this team. I’d love to see Nolan around for a long time. We didn’t specifically talk about, ‘Hey what if I do this or you do that.’ We didn’t play that game.”
Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich didn’t want to go down that road, either.
“This is really all about Charlie and thrilled we were able to get this done,” Bridich said. “He’s one of the elite players in the game now.”
Blackmon is coming off one of the best seasons for a leadoff hitter. His 102 RBIs while hitting in the top spot was a major league record, surpassing the mark of 100 set by Darin Erstad of the Angels in 2000. Blackmon’s 383 total bases from the leadoff spot in 2017 also were the most all time.
The 31-year-old Blackmon has started this season on a torrid pace – hitting .316 with four homers and six RBIs.
He’s known for being goofy, inquisitive and even a tad bit forgetful. He once tested the limits of the gas gauge on his Cherokee and ran out of fuel in the process, leading teammate DJ LeMahieu to help him out. Arenado once recounted a tale about how they carpooled back from the airport after returning from a trip only for Blackmon to remember his car was still there.
Few work harder at honing their craft, which is why he’s blossomed into one of the game’s top hitters. Over his big-league career, he’s hit .305 with 115 homers and 361 RBIs.
In high school, Blackmon was also a left-handed pitcher and was picked by the Marlins in the 28th round of the 2004 draft. A year later, he was selected in the 20th round by the Red Sox after a season with Young Harris College in Georgia. He attended Georgia Tech, where he switched from the mound to outfield full-time and was taken by the Rockies in the second round in 2008.
“I always felt like I was going to be really good at something,” Blackmon said. “I really wanted it to be baseball. For a long time I wanted it to be pitching. Turns out, I stink at pitching … I’m glad I was able to make that change.”
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