KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals agreed with shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. on an 11-year deal worth more than $288.7 million guaranteed, two people familiar with the contract told The Associated Press on Monday, locking up one of baseball’s young stars as the club tries to turn around its fortunes and persuade a weary fanbase to invest in a new stadium.
The deal includes a three-year, $89 million team option that would drive the value to more than $377 million and keep Witt in Kansas City through the 2037 season, according to the people, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the financial terms were not disclosed. Witt’s guaranteed salary makes it the 16th-largest current deal in Major League Baseball and second-biggest pre-arbitration agreement behind the 14-year, $340 million contract the Padres gave Fernando Tatis Jr. last April.
The Royals planned a Tuesday news conference to discuss the longest and richest deal in club history.
It includes a signing bonus riffing off Witt’s lucky jersey No. 7 of $7,777,777, payable in seven installments, with the first due within 60 days of the contract’s approval by the commissioner’s office. Witt will receive $2 million this year, then in the three years he would have been eligible for arbitration: $7 million in 2025, $13 million in 2026 and $19 million in 2027.
Witt will earn $30 million in 2028, the first year after he would have been eligible for free agency, and $35 million each in 2029 and ’30. He has four player options at $35 million annually from 2031-34, then the Royals have their three-year team option that would pay $33 million in 2035 and $28 million each in 2036 and ’37.
If all the options are included, Witt would be 37 by the time the contract expires.
“From the moment I was drafted in 2019, the entire Royals organization and fans have treated me and my family like their own,” Witt said in a statement issued by the club. “This city and this team have felt like home since Day 1.
The Royals selected Witt second overall in the 2019 amateur draft, and he rocketed through the minors while winning just about every accolade possible. He made his big league debut in 2022, hitting 20 homers and stealing 30 bases, then had a breakthrough sophomore season in which he became the only Royals player in the 30-30 club.
The 23-year-old Witt finished with 30 homers and 49 steals, making him the only player in major league history with 50 homers and 79 steals through their first two seasons. Alex Rodriguez in 1998 is the only other American League shortstop with a 30-30 season by their age, putting the son of longtime big leaguer Bobby Witt in some select company.
“From the day we drafted him we felt confident Bobby would become one of our game’s brightest stars and biggest talents,” Royals general manager J.J. Picollo said. “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 spent more than $100 million in free agency this offseason, hoping to turn around a beleaguered club coming off a 106-loss season. That investment, coupled with Witt’s massive contract, also comes as the Royals are trying to persuade fans in Jackson County, Missouri, to extend a sales tax that would help to pay for a new downtown ballpark.
The Royals are expected to announce their preferred stadium location in the next couple of weeks. After a contentious political fight, the sales tax measure — which also would help to fund renovations to Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs — was recently approved for the April ballot.
“We are extraordinarily proud to announce a historic deal with a very special player,’” said Royals owner John Sherman, who purchased the club not long after Witt was drafted. “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.”
The Royals’ previous record contract was a four-year, $82 million deal given to All-Star catcher Salvador Perez.
“El Mejor,” Perez tweeted after Witt’s deal was announced, which translates to “The Best.” The deal also was approved by Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a minority owner of the Royals, who tweeted, “Congrats my man!!!”
“He’s a role model for me,” Witt said of Mahomes not long ago, “just how he goes about it on and off the field. He texts me: ‘Hey, see you working out. How are things going?’ And I’m going, ‘Wow.’ I show my fiancee, ‘Look who just texted me!’”
Indeed, these are fast becoming halcyon days in Kansas City. After the Chiefs beat the Ravens for their fourth AFC title in the past five years, they arrived in Las Vegas this past weekend to finish their Super Bowl preparations.
They face the San Francisco 49ers in a rematch of the title game they won in 2020 on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
While the Chiefs are led by Mahomes, the two-time NFL and Super Bowl MVP, the Royals can now point toward Witt as the cornerstone of their franchise. He led the club in games played, hits, triples, homers, RBI, stolen bases and just about every other advanced metric last season, and he was second in the AL in hits, third in stolen bases and ninth in batting average.
He was only the sixth AL player in the last 75 years with 30 homers and 10 triples in a season. The others read like a who’s who of baseball stardom: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Jim Rice, Nomar Garciaparra and Curtis Granderson.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Sherman family and the Royals front office for believing in me,” Witt said, “and I promise to do everything in my power to help bring championship baseball back to Kansas City.”
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb