In the grand scheme of offseason things, it's hard to imagine anything more distressing to KC Royals fans than the club failing to secure the long-term services of Bobby Witt Jr. Witt is, after all, the only player in franchise history with the legitimate potential to someday rival George Brett as the greatest all-around Royal ever.
And the best time, at least from the team's perspective, to extend Witt is now — he's under team control, isn't eligible for arbitration until after this season and, without a new deal taking free agency out of play for several years, can't test the market until the 2027 season ends. Giving Witt a contract extension, one buying their young star out of arbitration and his first shot at free agency before his value increases even more, seems like the no-brainer it is.
So far, both parties are saying the right things — in no uncertain terms, Witt recently professed his desire to remain a Royal, and general manager J.J. Picollo has acknowledged the Royals want to wrap Witt up and are working on it. How close to, or how far from, Witt and the Royals are to consummating an agreement remains unknown.
And after Monday, things could be even more uncertain.
Thanks to Milwaukee, the price for Bobby Witt Jr. has likely risen
After days of speculation, the Brewers revealed Monday their signing of 19-year-old outfield sensation Jackson Chourio. The eight-year minimum deal is reportedly worth at least $82 million and as much as $142.5 million, and is the biggest contract signed by someone with minor league experience only.
In a vacuum, Chourio's new contract isn't of bombshell magnitude. But context is important and what makes it relevant to Witt and the Royals.
Unlike Witt, who is busy preparing for his third major league season, Chourio hasn't spent even a minute in the big leagues; in fact, he's played only six times at the Triple-A level. And while he boasts a .286/.347/.490 line with 47 homers, 191 RBI and 68 stolen bases in three minor league seasons, the fact remains he hasn't been tested in The Show.
So, what possible bearing does Chourio's deal have on what the Royals are trying to accomplish with Witt? In a very real sense, it helps sets the market threshold for Kansas City's most important player: comparing their shortstop to other young two-season major league players is easy, and perhaps advantageous to the Royals, but Witt can now argue convincingly that he's worth more as an established major leaguer than Chourio is as a player who might make it to Milwaukee this season, and ratchet up his salary demands accordingly.
In other words, the Witt camp is in prime position to reject any offers that don't well-exceed the value of Chourio's contract, and the customarily frugal Royals must realize that fact if they're serious about locking Witt in for several years, if not his entire career. Failing to extend Witt now is something that will only anger the KC fanbase.
We shall see...
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