Last week, the Detroit Tigers shocked the baseball world by signing infield prospect Cole Keith to an extension before he even reached the big leagues. It was shocking not only because the Tigers had never done something like this before, but there was quite a bit of risk associated with such a deal.
But when you sign a young, star player to a long-term extension after they reach the big leagues and reach their potential, that's just smart business. And that's what the Kansas City Royals just did.
The Royals just signed SS Bobby Witt Jr. to an 11-year, $288 million extension that could take him through his age-35 season. The reason I say could, is because there's an option that could extend the deal even further.
Talks a potential deal were first reportted by FanSided's own Robert Murray, but ESPN's Jeff Passan was the first to report the completed deal.
Witt is a potential five-tool player. He already has that prototypical power-speed combo locked up, with 30 homers and 49 steals a year ago. But his defense was a major question mark after his rookie season in 2022 after he had -22 defensive runs saved (DRS) between shortstop and third base, and -11 outs above average (OAA).
But in 2023, he had a dramatic turnaround while playing only shortstop. He still had -6 DRS, but his OAA improved drastically — all the way up to 14. This allowed his WAR to improve from 2.3 in 2022 to 5.7 in 2023. He's clearly a budding star.
According to Passan, he has a club option after the 11th year that could add another three years and $89 million to the deal, meaning that this could be a 14-year, $377 million mega-deal when it's all said and done. This is quite the committment from the Royals, but honestly, good for them. More teams need to invest in their young stars like this.
So how does this affect the Detroit Tigers? Well, obviously the Royals are in the same division, so Tigers fans we'll get see Witt torture the Tigers for the next decade-plus, although he only has a career .616 OPS against the Tigers so far in his career. I have a feeling as he gets older and better, that number will climb significantly.
Does this make KC an AL Central contender? Not this season. While adding players like Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, and Hunter Renfroe certainly make the team better, KC still doesn't have a good roster. As it stands, they're probably a 65-68 win team.
In the future, though, this could be a good team. They just need to keep adding pieces, something the Tigers need to keep doing as well. The Royals could be on a similar track as the Tigers to becoming a contender.