The baseball offseason has been relatively quiet since the Dodgers secured the services of countrymen Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto in December, but it was invigorated by an unlikely source this week, as the Kansas City Royals and shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. came to terms on an eye-popping 11-year, $288 million contract.
With 30 homers, 96 RBIs, and 49 stolen bases last season, Witt firmly established himself as one of the best young players in the game. While the Dodgers have made waves by committing an unprecedented amount of money to Ohtani and Yamamoto, it's tremendously encouraging to see a small market team like the Royals go all-in on their young face of the franchise.
The Royals have fallen on hard times in recent years, failing to finish above .500 in any of the eight seasons since winning the 2015 World Series. Signing Witt provides hope to their fans that maybe times are changing.
Our own Curt Bishop took a look at Edouard Julien, Jeremy Pena, and Jordan Walker, three other young stars that should be the next to sign extensions in the wake of the Witt signing, but the good thing about baseball right now is that the game is overflowing with young talent. Today we'll go over five more players that teams should look to extend soon.
Baltimore Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson
Last year's unanimous American League Rookie of the Year winner is right there with Witt as one of the best young players in the game. Henderson was spectacular in helping propel the fledgling Baltimore Orioles to the A.L. East crown, slugging 28 homers and scoring 100 runs while splitting his time defensively between shortstop and third base.
Henderson spent most of the year with Adley Rutschman (another perfect candidate for an early extension) at the top of Baltimore's lineup, and the dynamic duo were key contributors to a 101-win season. The former second-round pick is a true five-tool player, and his defensive versatility gives him even more value.
Baltimore has Henderson's rights for another five years, but with the recent $1.725 billion sale of the team to a group headed by businessman and Baltimore native David Rubenstein (which also includes Orioles legend Cal Ripken, Jr.), now is the perfect time for new ownership to show its commitment to the team's young core after years of penny-pinching by Peter Angelos.
The fact that Ripken is part of the ownership group should only further highlight the importance of locking up a talent as obvious as Henderson. Ripken spent his entire 21-year career in Baltimore, and though Henderson has a long way to go to match the Iron Man, he's off to a tremendous start.