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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The Miami Marlins took a big step towards becoming a contending team in baseball this week when they came to terms on a new contract with slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

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Stanton was at Marlins Park on Wednesday, officially signing the 13-year $325 million deal that is the most lucrative agreement between a player and sports franchise in the history of North American sports.

While sitting next to owner Jeffrey Loria, Stanton signed the agreement at the start of the news conference. The attendance-challenged franchise drew nearly 100 members of the media for the occasion.

CLICK HERE To Watch Jim Berry’s Report

The contract is the most lucrative for an American athlete and the longest in baseball history. It includes a no-trade clause, and Stanton can opt out after six years and $107 million.

“We’re here to celebrate a landmark agreement, not only for the Marlins organization but for our entire community,” Loria said.

Stanton said the deal points the Marlins in a winning direction.

“This is one building block toward a better future and a new way of life down here in Miami,” he said. “I’m glad to be here for my foreseeable future.”

CLICK HERE To Watch Jim Berry 1 On 1 With Giancarlo Stanton 

Stanton wasn’t due to become eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, and signing him to a long-term agreement was considered a long shot. The Marlins haven’t reached the playoffs since 2003, and Stanton said Loria’s financial commitment to fielding a contender was his primary concern during negotiations.

“I didn’t want to talk about dollars in the meeting,” Stanton said. “I wanted to talk about what’s our plan. Everyone wants to talk about the record-breaking deal. I want to have records on the field and do things on the field. That’s what this is about.

“This was the toughest decision of my life. This is 13 years. I didn’t even go to school for 13 years.”

CLICK HERE To Watch Mike Cugno’s Report 

The Marlins hadn’t held a celebratory news conference on such a scale since their last spending spree, just before their ballpark opened in 2012. They went 69-93, leading to a payroll purge, and their average attendance of 21,386 was 28th among the 30 major league teams.

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Stanton said signing this deal was one of the hardest decisions of his life, but he did so because he wants to bring a winner to Miami.  The message that he wants to send to Marlins fans is clear; it’s time to start believing that the team is committed to winning.

“This is for the city of Miami, this is for a new found confidence and trust,” said Stanton. “Starting with me, my teammates and the front office here, we need a winning environment.”

The Marlins have never had a player be the face of the franchise, a role that Stanton is excited to take on.  Even though the team has had several superstar players on it’s roster over the years, none of them have stayed in town long enough to become synonymous with Marlins baseball.

Stanton’s contract beats the $292 million, 10-year agreement Miguel Cabrera agreed to with Detroit in March. He gets the first 13-year guaranteed deal in baseball history, topping an April 2012 agreement between Cincinnati and Joey Votto that assured the first baseman of $251.5 million over 12 years.

“It’s an exciting day for Miami, my fans, our fans,” Stanton said. “This is not a lottery ticket. This is the start of work and a new job. It’s a huge responsibility, and one I’m willing to take.”

Stanton, who turned 25 on Nov. 8, is perhaps the game’s most feared slugger. He has 154 homers, including an NL-leading 37 this year.

The two-time All-Star right fielder recently won the NL Hank Aaron Award and was voted the NL’s outstanding player in balloting by his fellow major leaguers. He won a Silver Slugger Award and finished second to Clayton Kershaw in NL MVP voting.

“He wants to be the man, and he’s good enough to assume that mantle,” Marlins president David Samson said.

Stanton’s season ended Sept. 11 when he was hit in the face by a pitch and suffered fractures in his face and other injuries. Despite missing the final 17 games, he led the NL in homers and slugging for the Marlins, who went 77-85 but ended a three-year streak of last-place finishes in the NL East.

The Marlins said they’re not concerned the injuries will have lingering effects.

Of the $325 million due to Stanton, he’ll only make $30 million during the first three years of the deal.  That gives the Marlins some financial flexibility over the next few years, allowing the team to sign additional players and build a formidable lineup around Stanton.

The Marlins have a strong core group of young players already, such as shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, pitchers Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez and outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, who won the first Golden Glove award of his career in 2014.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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Jim Berry