“Almost a decade,” Evan White said. “Pretty cool.”
After stepping away from his press conference, it had surely been a long day for the Columbus, Ohio native. The physical, the tour of the facilities and introductions to some new staff, the contract signing and press conference, It was a whirlwind afternoon. All the baseball madness aside, White is set to be married in less than three weeks. His fiancée, Kari, actually pulled away from the activities today for a short while to get some last touches done for their big day.
Indeed, it’s wild times in the White household.
Wedding planning anxiety probably became a little more palatable today. White is more than a dollar richer than the day before.
Mariners first baseman of the future Evan White agreed to what (ideally) will amount to a nine-year deal. Seattle drafted White 17th overall in 2017. He’s spent three seasons in minor league ball. White will now conceivably spend his age 23 through 32-year-old seasons, his prime, with Seattle.
“Since the day I got drafted, this has been the dream of mine,” White said. “It’s surreal. I prayed on this day.”
Shortly after being drafted, White toured Seattle and the then Safeco Field. He fell in love with the city. He fell in love with the green hills. He fell in love with the people. He didn’t know what to expect when he landed in the Pacific Northwest, but it surpassed all expectations.
“I’d never really been on the west coast,” White said. “The nature of it all. The green, the water, the Space Needle, the ferris wheel, everything about the city. I loved the idea of playing by the water.”
He spent a short time in Everett with the AquaSox. That too left its mark on White. He played just 14 games up north, but it was enough to cement the idea that he could absolutely see himself calling Seattle ‘home’ for a very, very long time.
“It’s not like anything I’d ever seen before,” White said. “Every single day was perfect. They speak so much of the rain but never tell you how gorgeous the summers are here.”
The Mariners staff and front office certainly didn’t hurt the case either.
“The organization has been so good to me since day one,” White said. “I pretty much knew out of the gates this was an organization and a group of people I’d like to play for.”
Very preliminary talks between White’s representatives and the Mariners began last offseason. As the Scott Kingery and Eloy Jimenez deals were being finalized, the idea interested both White and Seattle. His agent, Blake Corosky, broached the subject with his client before the 2019 season. Fast-forward almost nine months and a game plan was conceivably in place to make this happen.
“I didn’t know too much about the idea at that point,” White said. “I thought to myself ‘why not explore the idea?’ and I’m glad I did.”
White hopped on a call with his agent and Mariners’ officials Friday, November 15 and a deal was presented to him.
“The players association gave me all the information I needed and laid it out for me perfectly,” White said. “There was no pressure in either direction from anyone involved. I prayed on it and spoke to everyone in my family. There were no pros and no cons that specifically stuck out any more than others. I decided, we all decided, this was what’s right for me.”
A week had gone by, but by Thursday, the 21st of November, White and his family had made a decision. He was going to sign the deal.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time for White and his family.
“That was actually my mom’s first day of chemo, as well as my dad’s birthday,” White said. “The timing was perfect. It felt right.”
White’s mom is in good spirits and she’s doing ‘well’. He was effusive in his general appreciation for the fan support from the people inside the fanbase and out.
This deal itself is unprecedented for the Mariners. The team has never extended a homegrown drafted player prior to them playing a big league inning. White very well may be the catalyst for this type of new movement.
According to a source close to the team, he’s not the only player with whom the team has had preliminary extension discussions in recent months.
And White is not taking this responsibility lightly.
“I’m definitely going to lead by example up here,” White said. “I’m just going to be a good teammate, a guy people can talk to. I want to be that vocal guy. If I continue to be the guy I am, the ‘responsibility’ and all that will go hand-in-hand.”
Mature beyond his years, the former University of Kentucky blue chip was unreserved in his thanks toward the Mariners organization. Seattle has essentially committed to White being a cornerstone of the organization for the foreseeable future. The Mariners hope he’ll be a major piece in returning Seattle to the postseason.
So what was White’s motivation in signing this deal? Financial security? Immediate playing time? White is subject to make roughly $24 million his first six years with the Mariners, potentially $30 million more over the final three years. There could have been potential to make more, but White did his homework.
The deal wasn’t spawned out of thin air; it had some precedent. That said, it was tough for White and his agent to find comparable deals for the structure of this contract, being as he’s only really played up to the Double-A level. White and his team noted Eric Hosmer made $31 million over his first seven years in big league ball, a framework figure that stood out in negotiations. The arbitration years—years four through six—were a big sticking point for White and his camp. But at the end of the day, White was solely interested in writing his own story.
“[Hosmer] is something we talked about a little bit,” White said. “But really, you can’t make it about other people. You need to negotiate for your family and what’s best for us, not for other players. At the end of the day, it’s what best for Kari, my family and I.”
The Mariners longterm plans for the structure of the team played a lot into White’s decision to sign his deal. Seattle made a strong pitch to White regarding where the team is at now, where the team will be soon, and where the team will be in the not-so-distant future. That roadmap was enticing and meant a lot to White to have it laid out in front of him. It elevated his enthusiasm for getting a deal done.
“I can’t say it enough. I believe in this team,” White said. “I believe in the organization and where this is going. I truly mean that.”
But enough with the dollars and cents.
What should fans expect in terms of production? After all, in August, White’s good friend, roommate, groomsman, and former Arkansas Travelers teammate Kyle Lewis said if he and White were playing with the AAA baseball, they’d both be in the midst of 30-tater campaigns. Lewis came to Seattle in September and popped six home runs in just 17 games. What say you, Evan?
“We talked about that actually,” White said.
The horrors of Dickey-Stephens Park remain.
“I remember seeing Kyle hit a ball at D-S. He had like a 110 exit velo(city) at 34 degree launch angle and it got caught. It’s unreal. You do that in Seattle, it’s off the batters eye.”
His enthusiasm for leaving Dickey-Stephens Park and never turning back was palpable.
“Being up here, you’re gonna know when you get one,” White said. “The pitching is different, and the ballpark is different, so that’s a little preview. If you get one here, it’s gone.”
But White isn’t known for being a stats guy. He loves a dinger as much as the next player, but he’ll also be the first to tell you he’s a clubhouse culture guy first. That pedigree will go a long way toward sustained success at the big league level.
But one final question remained. Why no. 12? After all, the number 12 has pretty big significance in the Pacific Northwest. What happened to the no. 19 he’s donned all this time?
“Oh 19? That’s ol’ Buhner’s number,” White laughed. “I wasn’t about to do that.”
So why 12? Again, a good chunk of studying was involved.
“It came down to 12 or 27. Kari and I studied the roster up and down on that,” White said. “(Justin) Dunn actually sent me the Biblical meaning of the number 12. The number 12 is mentioned several, several times in the Bible. It’s a symbol of faith. After he sent that, I knew that was the one.”
Health permitting, his nine-year deal would place White among the five or six most tenured Mariners by games played all-time. Edgar Martinez and Dan Wilson are the only players in team history to reach the playoffs on four separate occasions. White hopes to add his name to that list and then some.
“Oh boy, that’s what you play for,” White said. “That’s the plan.”
It’s been communicated that nothing is guaranteed to as far as Opening Day goes. White will have to go out and earn it like every other player vying for a 26-man roster spot. His new deal certainly increases the likelihood he opens 2020 in Seattle. Regardless, this is only the beginning for the Mariner’s new anchor at first base.
“I’m ready to get back to work,” White said. “Ready to get back after it.”