On a snowy and chilly January day at Comerica Park, Colt Keith's baseball journey felt right at home. Much like the typical winter weather in Detroit, Keith's path to the big leagues has been a mix of endurance and cool determination.
Today, as the Detroit Tigers' top prospect signed a major extension, it was a clear sign that his gamble of signing for $500,000 back in the 2020 MLB Draft is paying off, despite not having stepped onto a major league field yet. But Keith and the Tigers both knew what they were getting into.
"There are positives and negatives and risks on both sides," Keith said. "Best case for both of us is all of the option years are exercised, we win a couple of World Series, I make myself a boatload of money, and I'm still a free agent at 31."
Keith also added, "Worst case for both of us, the organization and myself, is I don't pan out, and I end up with security, financially, for me and my family for the rest of our lives."
The faith in Colt Keith as a person
President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris approached Keith and his agent, Matt Paul after noticing a few things that stood out to Harris in 2023, which gave him the confidence to give Keith the extension.
"I think any reasonable hitter would just take the same approach from AA to AAA and just expect it to work. Triple AAA pitchers started to attack him in very specific ways," Harris said
"They started to try to exploit weaknesses in his swing and in his approach. Colt recognized those patterns early, and he worked to not only close those holes, but actually drive those pitches for damage. It's really hard to do, especially for someone his age. "
In a revelation that might surprise some, the relationship between Colt Keith and his agent, Matt Paul, extends beyond the typical player-agent dynamic. Paul, a former MLB scout and ex-player in the Dodgers' farm system, is not just Keith's representative; he's also his batting practice partner. This unique bond sees Paul not only pitching to Keith, but also taking swings alongside him. Since Keith's drafting, Paul has been a steadfast believer in his potential, a belief that's now more evident with Keith's latest contract extension.
“We spent a great deal of time together. We live five minutes apart from each other. I'd say, 80 percent of the off-season the last seven years, five years you've been a pro ball now. We're on the field 4-5 days a week, right? There's plenty of time for us to have conversations, engage in conversation. We talk life, you know, it's bigger than baseball.”
Paul took a comprehensive approach in discussing the implications of Keith's latest contract extension. Exploring every possible angle, Paul ensured that Keith understood the full scope of what this deal could offer, both for his immediate future and long-term career trajectory in the major leagues.
"This is real life. It's real life, real money," Paul said. "It's a 22-year-old who hadn't had one as he said, one big league at bat, right? It's not guesswork. We're not trying to guess. We're trying to give them the right information. He trusts me. I trust him. I know how good he can be, and I've got a really good idea of how good he's gonna be.
"So our relationship played a really big role, I think, in Colt's trust in me. So I think us just having the time, because we're around each other so much, to really talk through this, right? It's not like we talk once a week over the phone. We're together all the time in person, so we can have a real time conversation."
Harris made it clear that despite Colt Keith's new deal, an Opening Day roster spot isn't guaranteed for him. However, the contract has earned Keith a coveted position on the 40-man roster, signaling the team's confidence in his potential. To make room for Keith on the roster, the Tigers designated recent pickup, RHP Devin Sweet, for assignment.
Keith's family – his parents, Mary and Troy, along with his fiancé, Kait – were visibly filled with pride, a testament to their unwavering support throughout his journey. Keith's journey to the big leagues was a true family affair. His parents, dedicated to supporting their son's dream, moved from Ohio to Mississippi and then to Arizona, making significant life changes to ensure Keith had every opportunity to chase his dream.
As Keith gears up for the big leagues, you can almost feel the excitement buzzing around him. There he is, with his folks and fiancé right beside him, all smiles and full of pride. It's like you can see the whole journey in their eyes – the early mornings, the late-night practices, and now, here, with a shot at the majors. It's not just a name on the Tigers' roster; it's a unique deal and situation that Detroit has set themselves up for, a first. And with snow softly covering Comerica Park, it's as if the stage is set for Keith to step up and really show what he's got this season.
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