Big Detroit deal begs the huge KC Royals question

Will Kansas City wrap up its star shortstop?
William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

While the curious news of Adam Frazier's acquisition continued to occupy the weekend baseball thoughts of KC Royals fans Sunday, American League Central Division rival Detroit announced the kind of deal those fans have only, at least to this point, dreamed about. Investing heavily in their future, the Tigers revealed the signing of key prospect Colt Keith to a six-year contract extension that could stretch to nine years if the club picks up its trio of single-season options.

The news isn't that surprising, if it's surprising at all. Keith is a potential superstar, an infielder who holds second place in MLB Pipeline's Detroit prospect rankings and has the tools required for a long and productive big league career.

Granted, Keith's new contract is not, at its reported maximum value of $82 million, the kind of deal the Royals would offer Bobby Witt Jr., their own superstar-in-the-making, without insulting him, perhaps to the point of irretrievably breaking the club-player relationship. Put simply, Witt is worth more than $82 million. Much more.

The huge question is thus begged — if the Tigers can wrap up a big star, especially one who, like Keith, hasn't spent even an inning in the majors, why hasn't Kansas City extended Witt?

When will Bobby Witt Jr. and the Royals reach a new agreement?

Other than the confusing new stadium situation, there is no more important Royal puzzle in need of solution than the matter of Witt. That he's the Royals' best player is indisputable; so, too, is the fact that they'll contend sooner with him than they will without him. No other member of the roster is more critical to the club's success, or more capable of drawing fans to the ballpark.

It behooves the team, then, to secure Witt's signature on a contract that could conceivably make him a Royal for life. The concept is one not foreign to general manager J.J. Picollo, whose interest in such an arrangement is a matter of public record.

So, why hasn't a deal been done? No one outside the closely-knit confines of the Royals knows the definitive answer to that question; everyone can speculate, but no one knows, and no one inside the club's offices or Witt's camp is talking. The silence only adds to the intrigue ... and the uncertainty.

Perhaps Witt's current status — he's under team control through the 2027 season — impresses no sense of great urgency upon the parties. Perhaps they've reached a deal in principle, but have yet to hammer out the finer details that can easily delay a final resolution. Maybe the project is of such magnitude that both player and franchise are moving cautiously and deliberately.

Whatever the answer to the Witt Question may be, not locking up soon the player who so represents the future of the franchise is one that will only anger a fanbase yearning for better times. Assuming Witt is willing, now is a perfect time to enter into a new arrangement, the consummation of which will enable Witt to focus exclusively on playing, and the Royals to rest easy knowing their biggest star is in the long-term mix.

And bringing Witt permanently into the Royal fold won't hurt the prospects of moving Sherman's desire for a new ballpark closer to fruition.

The bottom line? If Detroit can extend Colt Keith, the Royals can certainly extend Bobby Witt Jr.

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