There is a growing trend in Major League Baseball.
If you have a young player who has superstar potential, lock them up for over a decade at all costs.
In recent years, we have seen the likes of Julio Rodriguez, Corbin Carroll and Spencer Strider sign long-term extensions before their sophomore seasons. Now the latest player to sign has received the biggest deal yet, coming off the heels of a breakout sophomore campaign after a somewhat underwhelming rookie year.
That player, of course, is none other than Royals star Bobby Witt Jr. who has now signed a deal that could keep him in Kansas City until the year 2037.
Witt is coming off a breakout season that saw him hit .276/.319/.495, with 30 home runs, 96 RBIs, and post a 115 wRC+. One of the quickest players in the game, Witt swiped 49 bases and scored 97 runs for the Royals.
After splitting time between third base and shortstop in his rookie year, Witt played exclusively at shortstop last year and saw great results, posting 14 OAA at the position. All told, Witt ranked 11th in Major League Baseball with 5.7 wins above replacement. At just 23 years old, Witt still has all of his best baseball ahead of him, which the Royals are counting on by giving him this deal.
The contract is for 11 years guaranteed, but will allow Witt to opt out after the seventh year of the deal when he is still just 30 years old. He would however be opting out of $35 million a year for the next four years, accounting for a whopping $140 million of his $288.77 million contract.
Witt can opt-out of his annual $35 million salary at any time between 2031 and 2034, giving him the opportunity to hit free agency at whatever proves to be the best time for him.
If Witt never exercises his opt-out clauses, the Royals will get the chance to pick up a three-year club option ahead of the 2035 season which will be worth an additional $89 million. This would bring the full value of the deal to 14 years and $377.7 million.
Had Witt not signed this contract, the earliest he could have been a free agent was 2028, when he would have been 28 years old. Instead the Royals have bought out all of his arbitration years and at least his first three free agent years.
While this contract could take on many different forms over the next decade and a half, the sentiment for now is clear. Bobby Witt Jr. is the face of the Kansas City Royals and they plan to keep it that way for a long time.