Royals, Bobby Witt Jr. agree to most lucrative contract in franchise history to keep SS in Kansas City long term

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The Royals and shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. have agreed to the longest, most lucrative contract in franchise history Monday, keeping the 23-year-old in Kansas City for the foreseeable future.

It’s an 11-year, $288.7 million guaranteed contract, major-league sources told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, but it includes options that could raise the total figure to $377.7 million. Witt will be tethered to the Royals through 2030 and will then have annual opt-out clauses for the next four seasons. If Witt declines to opt out after four years, the Royals can exercise a three-year club option that would take the deal through the 2037 season.

The son of a longtime big-league pitcher, Witt was the second pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. He finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2022. He finished seventh in the MVP voting last season, when he produced a .276/.319/.495 slash line, a rare bright spot for a team that piled up a franchise record-tying 106 losses.

Witt ranked 11th in the majors last season in fWAR (5.7). He totaled 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases, joining Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. as the only other member of the 30-40 club in 2023.

To understate it, this deal dwarfs the previous Royals contract record. Catcher Salvador Pérez signed a four-year, $82 million extension in 2021. Left fielder Alex Gordon signed a four-year, $72 million deal ahead of the 2016 season. Pitcher Ian Kennedy signed a five-year, $70 million deal that same winter.

The Royals have been busy this offseason on the heels of their seventh consecutive losing season. They signed pitchers Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha to make their rotation — which logged a 5.12 ERA as a unit — more formidable. They bolstered their bullpen with the additions of Nick Anderson, Chris Stratton and Will Smith. They added Hunter Renfroe, Adam Frazier and Garrett Hampson to a lineup that ranked 10th in the AL in OPS.

The Witt extension, though, cements the Roylas’ most critical building block in place for the long haul.

Not only did he hit for more power and boost his stolen-base total in his sophomore season, but Witt also trimmed his strikeout rate, increased his walk rate and supplied hard contact on a more regular basis. He ranked in the 95th percentile in expected batting average and slugging percentage, encouraging signs for his continued development at the plate. He also completed a 180 defensively, as he went from the second percentile in Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric in 2022 to the 98th percentile in 2023.

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(Photo: Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

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