Thursday, July 18, 2024

Bobby Witt Jr. contract extension: Royals star signs 11-year deal worth $288.7 million, per report

The Kansas City Royals have locked up their franchise player. Shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and the Royals have agreed to a massive 11-year contract extension, the team announced Monday. The deal is worth at least $288.7 million, according to ESPN. It is, by far, the largest contract in franchise history, surpassing Salvador Perez’s four-year, $82 million contract. Perez’s deal was signed in March 2021.

“We are extraordinarily proud to announce an historic deal with a very special player,'” Royals chairman John Sherman said in a statement. “Like our fans, I’m thrilled that this ensures Bobby will compete in a Royals uniform for many years to come. Bobby makes us better, and I’m grateful for his commitment to our fans, our city, and our team.”  

Witt’s contract includes a $7.7 million signing bonus and opt outs after Years 7, 8, 9, and 10, reports There is a three-year club option that could push the total value to 14 years and $377.7 million. Witt, 23, was still four years away from free agency, though the closer he got to the open market, the more difficult and more costly it would have been to extend him.

The $288.7 million guarantee is the second largest ever for a player four years away from the free agency. Here are the largest deals signed at this service time level:

  1. Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres: 14 years and $340 million (Feb. 2021)
  2. Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals: 11 years and $288.7 million (Feb. 2024)
  3. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants: 9 years and $167 million (March 2013)
  4. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: 6 years and $144.5 million (March 2014)
  5. Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros: 6 years and $115 million (June 2022)

Witt, 23, was the No. 2 pick behind Adley Rutschman in the 2019 draft, and he beat Rutschman to the big leagues even though he was drafted out of high school and Rutschman played at Oregon State. Witt broke out in 2023, slashing .276/.319/.496 with 30 home runs, 49 stolen bases, and very good defense. The result was a 4.4 WAR season.

“From the day we drafted him we felt confident Bobby would become one of our game’s brightest stars and biggest talents,” GM J.J. Picollo said in a statement. “These last two seasons have been confirmation of that talent, and proof that he’s an even better teammate. We know he wants to win here for our fans as much as we do.”

The Royals have been arguably the most active American League team this offseason. They signed free agents Adam Frazier, Seth Lugo, Hunter Renfroe, Will Smith, and Michael Wacha, among others. According to FanGraphs, Kansas City now has the highest competitive balance tax payroll in the AL Central at $161 million. That is still well south of the $237M CBT threshold, however.

The AL Central is hardly a powerhouse and the Royals could make a run at the division title in 2024. It’s also notable that ownership is seeking a new ballpark in downtown Kansas City. Sherman’s investments into Witt and the roster as a whole come two months before a ballot referendum on a tax that would help fund a new stadium.

Kansas City went 56-106 last season, tying the 2005 team for the most losses in franchise history. The Royals have not had a winning season nor been to the postseason since winning the 2015 World Series.

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