By: Martin Oldhues
As the Kansas City Royals look to solidify their young core to compete in the American League Central, one of their brightest stars is staying for over a decade.
Today, the Royals and shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. agreed to an 11-year, $288 million extension that will keep him in Kansas City for over a decade. It’s the largest contract in franchise history.
The present, the future, and the largest contract in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/LpcUGPpzkj
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) February 5, 2024
The contract has opt-out clauses after the seventh, eighth, nineth and 10th year, allowing him to test free agency if he chooses. Additionally, the ballclub can pick an option on the final year of the deal, which would extend it by three years. The extension can reach fourteen years and up to $377 million, bypassing his final three years of arbitration.
Last year, Witt became the fastest MLB player to hit 30 home runs, 15 triples and steal 40 bases. Overall, his offensive slash line was .276/.319/.495, while placing 7th in American League MVP voting.
Long-term contracts for younger players are becoming common in baseball. Outfielder Julio Rodríguez and the Seattle Mariners signed a 12-year, $209 million in his only second year. Deals grant less average annual value for the team’s payroll but risk the potential falloff of players or other circumstances, evident in the Tampa Bay Rays signing Wander Franco to an 11-year deal a year before legal issues could keep the shortstop from returning.
The move is only one of the busy offseason the Royals have put together, bolstering their starting rotation with the additions of Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha and Kyle Wright while adding veteran hitters Adam Frazier and Hunter Renfroe.
Ownership has been interested in moving out of Kauffman Stadium, where their lease ends in 2031. It wants to move to the downtown area. Investing in a winning team could encourage local officials to greenlit a new stadium, costing over a billion dollars.
With the Minnesota Twins trading longtime Infielder Jorge Polanco and losing key rotation pieces in Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle, and the Cleveland Guardians’ below-average lineup, winning the division may be possible for a restructured Royals ballclub as their NFL Counterpart, the Chiefs, look to continue their winning ways in the Superbowl.