KC Royals: Why the Bobby Witt Jr. deal may not last

The worrisome details are in the contract.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The wait is over, KC Royals fans. As FanSided's Katrina Stebbins wrote here earlier today, Bobby Witt Jr., the budding superstar so many consider the foundation and future of the franchise, and the Royals have the long-term deal everyone hoped for. It's looks like an 11-season arrangement that could pay the club's shortstop a whopping $288.7 million (and possibly more— but more on that more in a moment), and the contract far exceeds the club record, held heretofore by Salvador Perez and his $82 million deal.

On the surface of it all, binding Witt to Kansas City for 11 years is the best news these Royals have made in a long, long time, and undoubtedly eliminates the chances of the fan anger that almost certainly would have erupted had the club not hammered out an extension with Witt this winter. Perhaps not since the club won the 2015 World Series has there been a bigger Royal story than that of the new agreement Witt and the club have forged.

It doesn't take much scrutiny of the details so far reported, though, to give everyone just a bit of pause.

The deal may not last. Let's all hope it does ... but there's a possibility that it won't.

There's a way Bobby Witt's contract can end before 11 seasons are up

Today on X, Mark Feinsand lays out the basic financial details of Witt's contract. The deal launches this season with $2 million to Witt. After increases, he'll hit $30 million in 2028, then $35 million for each of 2029 and 2030.

Then comes the end of the 2030 season and beginning of the 2030-2031 offseason. And that's when things could get interesting. After seven seasons, and with four years left on the base deal, Witt can end it all, head into free agency, and possibly find a new club willing to enrich him beyond what this new Kansas City contract calls for.

And no one can stop him.

Why? Because Witt can unilaterally, without the club's having any say, simply choose to extinguish what remains of the deal. Simply put, he can opt out of the contract for the 2031 campaign; such is what the contract, negotiated between him and the team, entitles him to do according to Feinsand. And if he exercises that option to stay, he can leave via declining player options after the 2031, 2032, and 2033 seasons.

Will he do that? Will Witt take advantage of those four opportunities to leave the contract affords him? No one will know until the time comes, and there's probably a good chance Witt won't want to depart from the franchise upon which he could leave such an indelible mark, and which has been so good to him. What is certain, though, is that he can leave should he so choose.

The incentive to test free agency could be great. If Witt performs over the first seven years of the deal like he could, it's possible the Royals won't be able to match the salary other clubs will surely dangle in front of him. No one will blame him if that happens and he chooses to play elsewhere for more money. And he could play so well for several years that the $35 million he's owed for the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th years of the deal could be less than he's worth.

So, what can the Royals do to keep him in the fold? Assuming his performance renders him underpaid by market condition metrics, they could offer to renegotiate the contract, and they'd be unwise, considering the heavy hammer his player options collectively represent, not to.

On the other hand, the club has its own unilateral options for the 2035-2037 seasons which, if exercised, collectively guarantee Witt $89 million. Not chump change, certainly, but the complicated baseball market forces can do strange things.

So, one Witt-related wait has ended. Another could begin in a few years.

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