BRADENTON, Fla. -- At precisely 8:10 ET Thursday morning, Pirates bullpen coach Euclides Rojas walked up to Starling Marte and handed him a pen. It was probably only a symbolic coincidence -- or perhaps that was the pen Marte used a little later to sign the contract that could keep him in the Bucs' outfield through 2021 and earn him $53 million.
Marte's deal, which kicks in this season and is guaranteed for six years and $31 million, became official mid-Thursday and announced at a media conference at McKechnie Field.
Calling it "another great day for the Pirates and for Starling Marte's family," general manager Neal Huntington once again shook on the deal with Marte, sitting to his right.
"I want to say thanks to Neal and the Pirates' organization for having confidence in me," Marte said. "And to all the fans in Pittsburgh, for supporting me."
"This is an exciting time," said manager Clint Hurdle, sitting at the far right of a picnic table set up inside a small tent as protection from raindrops. "We're not trying to build a house -- we're trying to create a home, and this is another tangible evidence of doing that."
Marte had a previous 2014 contract for $512,500, and the new deal revises that salary to $500,000. He is not complaining.
The breakdown of terms, according to a baseball source: $2 million signing bonus; salaries of $500,000 in 2014, $1 million in '15, $3 million in '16, $5 million in '17, $7.5 million in '18 and $10 million in '19. There are club options of $11.5 million and $12.5 million for 2020 and 2021, respectively, with buyouts of $2 million and $1 million
The value of the options could rise each year by up to $1 million, based on Marte's finishes in voting for the National League MVP Award.
"We'll have, for many years, someone else pretty much the same caliber as myself," said NL MVP center fielder Andrew McCutchen. "It's beneficial for both sides. It's really good that they were able to sign that deal. He knows he'll be here, and the Pirates know that they'll have him."
With his agent, Peter Greenberg, acting as also his interpreter, Marte made clear that making the long-term commitment was a simple choice over awaiting free agency for him.
"I like where I am," Marte said. "I like the organization and the fans and what the team is doing. I want to be a big part of all of it. It was also a big opportunity to guarantee my family."
In reality, and other than the monetary stakes, the only thing guaranteed by a long-term deal such as this is that both sides take a risk.
"When you reach an agreement like this one, it's a mutual commitment," Huntington said. "We need to believe in the player, but the player needs to believe in us. We're very excited that Starling was willing to make that commitment to us.
"There is also mutual risk -- and the player's risk is that the money never comes back," added the GM, alluding to players who decline a deal, then do not develop up to their hopes.
"We have a quality young man," Huntington said, "and a dynamic athlete whose, we believe, better days are ahead."
When a question was posed about the potential pressure of living up to such a contract, Marte segued to English and took it himself.
"I still do the same. You know me," he said. "I smile for everything … but I play tough."
Marte then reverted to his native language to explain why the numbers on his dotted line will never affect his box score lines.
"It does give me confidence to know so many people believe in me," he said. "But I've always been a fighter, with goals to reach. Now I have more goals to reach, to do the best I can and reach my potential."
The contract should make that easier, said the only teammate able to truly relate.
"He'll be able to relax, knowing he doesn't have to worry about being traded or what will happen next year," said McCutchen, perhaps revealing his own feelings upon agreeing to a six-year extension two springs ago. "He can just go perform without having to worry about anything. It will be really beneficial to him."
McCutchen finds it reassuring to know he is going to have long-term company.
"It's good to know more people are going to be around and we can continue what we've got going," McCutchen said. "It's happening now [securing players long-term], something that wasn't happening before, and it should come with what we've done the past year. We're trying to change things around for the better."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less