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Rockies shortstop Ezequiel Tovar’s $63.5 million contract carries big expectations

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Rockies figure they hit the jackpot with shortstop Ezequiel Tovar. On Tuesday, they rewarded him with a life-changing contract.

“It’s a blessing and I’m so excited that the Rockies believed in me, and I’m excited to be here for a long time,” the 22-year-old said after officially signing a $63.5 million, seven-year contract extension. The deal includes a team option for 2031 that could boost the agreement to $84 million over eight seasons.

The Rockies have known about Tovar since he was a 13-year-old kid in Maracay, Venezuela. He first grabbed the attention of Frank Roa, one of the Rockies’ Latin American scouts. A year later, Roa insisted that Rolando Fernandez, Colorado’s vice president of international scouting and development, see Tovar up close and personal.

“I went to the Roberto Vahlis Baseball Academy in the Dominican (Republic) with Frank,” Fernandez recalled. “We went to see another player. Tovar was just 14, and he was just 5-foot-8, 145 pounds at the time. But Roa told me that he had been following Tovar and he was the best player in the academy. We decided to stay close to him and continued to evaluate him until his eligible age.”

Fernandez signed Tovar for $800,000 on Aug. 1, 2017 — Tovar’s 16th birthday. The Rockies thought they had discovered a special player. They were right.

As a rookie last season, Tovar was a National League Gold Glove finalist and led the Rockies with 153 games played. He slashed .253/.287/.408 with 15 home runs, 37 doubles, four triples, 73 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. His 37 doubles were tied with Hall of Famer Todd Helton (1998) for the most by a rookie in franchise history.

Blessed with a strong arm, quick feet and excellent hand-eye coordination, Tovar is a steady presence at shortstop and capable of highlight-reel plays. In 2023, he was credited with 13 defensive runs saved, ranking fourth among major league shortstops. His 16 outs above average were tied for the sixth-most among all position players and second among shortstops.

He said that’s just the beginning.

“I felt like I belonged here when I made my start in big leagues,” Tovar said, referring to his debut on Sept. 23, 2022. “I think the overall experience, and being around the veteran players, has made me better. I’ve learned to be a big leaguer.”

The Rockies, Tovar and Tovar’s agent worked out the new contract in about a week. Both sides were eager to reach a long-term deal.

“Something that everybody should understand is that he wants to be here,” manager Bud Black said. “That speaks volumes.”

Tovar received a $1.5 million signing bonus and salaries of $1.5 million this season, $4 million in 2025, $5 million in 2026, $8 million in 2027, $11 million in 2028, $14 million in 2029 and $16 million in 2030. The Rockies hold the option for $23 million in 2031 with a $2.5 million buyout.

“First and foremost, we believe in him and what he has a chance to be down the road,” general manager Bill Schmidt said. “He has a chance to be a very, very good player. We believe in him, and like a lot of our young players, he’s somebody we can build around.”

The Rockies have had several stellar shortstops throughout their history, including Troy Tulowitzki and Trevor Story. The Rockies believe Tovar will carry the torch.

“Offensively, there is more in there,” Black said. “There should be an increase in on-base percentage. He hit 15 homers last year, and I think there’s a little bit more there as well, moving forward.

“There’s a clutch aspect in there, too. He doesn’t scare off. I think he likes big moments and he shines, potentially, on a bigger stage — September, playoffs, World Series. I think he’s that type of player. He wants to win. I like that.”

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