It was only a matter of time that Miguel Rojas — the Miami Marlins’ always-passionate, Miami-loving infielder — was going to break down in tears, or something close to it, while he discussed his new contract extension.
The veteran sat at a table — sandwiched between Don Mattingly and Michael Hill — in Marlins Park to talk about the new two-year contract he had signed to keep him in Miami through at least 2021.
He talked about what it meant not just to him, but to his family and Latino players in general. Rojas was never one of the most highly touted prospects in the sport and still he has a new contract which will make him an eight-year veteran.
“Miggy’s committed,” CEO Derek Jeter said. “He’s committed to the South Florida community, he’s committed to the Marlins organization and he’s been very vocal about his desire to play the rest of his career here in Miami, so we appreciate everything that Miggy has done for the organization and what he will continue to do for the organization.”
Rojas’ two-year deal, which was formally announced by the Marlins (53-99) on Friday ahead of a series opener against the Washington Nationals in Miami, also includes a third-year option.
Rojas, who arrived in South Florida ahead of the 2015 season when the Marlins were planning to compete for postseason berths and World Series, will now get to see through Miami’s rebuilding effort, which is nearing the end of a second season with 63 wins or fewer.
“I’m looking forward to be here for a couple more years and be part of what we’re trying to do here — that is winning a championship and that’s my main goal here,” Rojas said. “It’s not signing a big contract, it’s not signing a long contract or any personal matters. All I want to do here is help this organization to win a championship in a short period of time. Hopefully we can do that sooner than later, but at the same time we know it’s a process. It’s going to take some time.”
Rojas, who leads the team with a .285 batting average entering a three-game series against the Nationals (83-68) this weekend, has been the Marlins’ primary option at shortstop this season, but he has played all four infield positions in his time in Miami. One of the best defensive players in the Majors, Rojas can serve as a bridge at shortstop until players from the Marlins’ highly touted farm system — including Jazz Chisholm, the No. 8 shortstop prospect in the MLB.com rankings — arrive in Miami and his versatility will allow him to be a useful utility player even if he is displaced from the starting lineup by a younger player in the next two or three years.
Rojas, however, is in the midst of the best season of his career, which he has spent almost exclusively playing for Mattingly. Rojas made his Major League debut in 2014 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, managed by Mattingly. The Dodgers traded Rojas to the Marlins after the season and Mattingly followed him in 2016 after Los Angeles fired him following a postseason flameout. Jeter called Rojas, “an extension of the manager.”
In each of the last three seasons, Rojas has been worth at least two wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference, and he has already matched a career best at 2.4 this season. His .285 batting average is a career best in seasons he played at least 100 games.
“The first thing we heard is, Hey, this guy can really pick it, but he can’t hit,” mattingly said, recalling the early scouting reports he heard about Rojas. “He’s always been a great defensive player and he continues to be, but from the offensive side it’s like the perfect example of a guy that will continue to work, continue to get better, continue to strive. It makes me emotional because I’m so proud of him and what he’s been able to accomplish on that side of the ball, and who he’s become. There’s no better example of what kind of player that we want, how much better you can get.
“I think sometimes guys get caught thinking, Oh, I got to the big leagues. I’m good enough. Miggy’s a perfect example. If you continue to work, continue to get a little better every day, continue to just persevere, of what you can become.”