Sources – Bobby Witt Jr. agrees to 11-year, $288.8 million deal with Royals

Shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. both agreed. The Kansas City Royals have agreed to an 11-year, $288.8 million contract extension, sources told ESPN, a stunning guarantee that will keep the young star in Kansas City while the Royals try to build a team — and a new stadium — with him at center.

Witt, 23, who is entering his third major league season, was one of the best players in baseball last year, prompting the Royals to lavish him with a deal that included star money but also flexibility. The sources said the contract would allow Whitt to withdraw after years seven, eight, nine and 10. It also includes a club option after the 11th season that will extend to a three-year, $89 million contract, giving him a 14-year, $377 million cap hit.

The deal, which kicks off a huge week for Kansas City sports that will end with the Chiefs playing San Francisco in the Super Bowl, guarantees more for Whitt than all but 15 players in baseball history. It reflects the team's faith in Witt, who last season hit .276/.319/.495 with 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. His signing, a week before Royals players arrive for spring training, caps a busy winter in which the Royals moved aggressively in free agency, in part to help convince Whitt that owner John Sherman was sincere in his desire to return the Royals to lesser relevance after more than a decade of Winning the franchise's second World Series.

Locking up Witt has been the royal family's top priority throughout the holiday, and they reached an agreement just two months before a ballot referendum in Jackson County, Missouri, to extend a three-eighths of a cent tax that would help fund a new government. The Kansas City Royals' downtown stadium and the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium renovation.

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A 6-foot-1, 200-pound player whose father spent 16 years as a major league player, Witt has astonished residents for years with his combination of power, speed, baseball knowledge and high character. Kansas City scouted him heavily before selecting him with the No. 2 pick out of Colleyville, Texas, in the 2019 draft. Two months later, Sherman bought out the Royals from longtime owner David Glass and inherited the most talented player to join the organization in decades.

In his first full season in 2021, Witt moved up to the Triple-A level and was the consensus minor league MVP. In Witt's first big league appearance on Opening Day in 2022, Kansas City's stars showed up — from the Royals' only Hall of Famer, George Brett, to the city's mayor, Quinton Lucas, to the men's basketball team that was recently crowned National League champion NCAA. To see the royals, and Witte in particular.

As a rookie, Whitt's performance matched the hype: 20 home runs, 30 stolen bases, the best speed in baseball, and a glove that could grow into something special. A better version of himself emerged last season after Witt spent the spring with the U.S. World Baseball Classic. He led the major leagues with 11 triples, boosted his home run rate by 50% and more stolen bases, and matured defensively, lowering his batting average to 17.4%. Only Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Ozzie Albies — the top three of whom finished first or second in MVP voting last year — have had 30 or more homers with lower strikeout rates.

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The timing for an extension could not be better than this winter. Witt would have entered arbitration after the 2024 season and was just three years away from free agency and the appeal of teams richer than the Royals. Had the deal not been completed, the Royals could have begun to consider the possibility of trading Witt — especially if they were clearly unwilling to operate in $250 million-plus cap space and dwarf their previous record contract, a four-year contract worth $82. $. Million extension for All-Star catcher Salvador Perez.

Sherman was ready. In doing so, he hopes to not only send the Royals on the right track after a disappointing 56-106 finish in 2023, but also convince fans to vote yes on allocating $1 billion to an estimated $2 billion stadium it is expected to serve. As the nerve center of the entertainment district in the East Village neighborhood. The Royals' current home, Kauffman Stadium, was built in 1973 and renovated in 2009.

Discussions between the royals and Bobby Witt Sr., who serves as his son's agent at the Octagon, have been ongoing for months. Witt's $288 million guarantee is the second-largest for a player pre-arbitration behind Fernando Tatis Jr.'s 14-year, $340 million contract and exceeds Tatis' deal — which was previously considered top-tier — in annual value. About 2 million dollars.

The opt-outs, which come after the 2030, 2031, 2032 and 2033 seasons, give Whitt the opportunity to hit free agency or renegotiate a deal, but he intends to stay with the Royals long after the first seven years, which will pay him money. $148 million. The deal also includes a no-trade clause and a $7,777,777 signing bonus – ideal for a player who wears his No. 7 jersey everywhere in Kansas City.

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Commitment is an investment in trust on both sides. Long-term, big-money contracts for young players like Whitt are considered by lower-revenue teams like Kansas City to be essential to retaining players of his caliber. At the same time, they come with enough risk that teams are loathe to hand them over. Only six former players who spent two years or less in the major leagues received nine-figure deals. All were All-Stars: Fernando Tatis Jr. (14 years, $340 million), Julio Rodriguez (12 years, $209 million), Wander Franco (11 years, $182 million), Mike Trout (six years, $144.5 million ), Corbin Carroll (eight years, $111 million) and Acuña (eight years, $100 million).

Meanwhile, Witt is entrusting his best years to an organization that struggled to surround him with quality players in his first two years, as the Royals went 121-203. The free agent signings of right-handers Seth Lugo (three years, $45 million) and Michael Wacha (two years, $32 million) helped stabilize a rotation that saw a potential breakout in the second half from left-hander Cole Ragans, whom Kansas City acquired reliever Aroldis Chapman in June. . The return of first baseman Vinny Pasquantino, who missed most of 2023 after undergoing shoulder surgery, should provide Whitt with better protection for the lineup.

Multiple teams' in-house pitching systems consider Whitt one of the top 10 players in baseball and see MVP-type seasons in his future. During his first season, Witt showed flashes of greatness, and when fans puzzled over whether he would stay with the Royals, he said he didn't want to look too far ahead but “I want to be here for a long time.”

Now, it will be.

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