After a breakout 2023 season in which he finished seventh in AL MVP voting, Bobby Witt Jr. and the Kansas City Royals have agreed to an 11-year, $288.7 million extension. The deal was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Anne Rodgers of MLB.com reported that a three-year team option can make it a 14-year extension worth $377.7 million. FanSided insider Robert Murray reported the parties had contract extension talks Sunday.
Following a rookie campaign where he showed flashes of dominance, including becoming the then-fifth rookie to ever have a 20/20 season, Witt Jr. became one of the best five-tool players in 2023. Witt Jr. slashed .276/.319/.495 (115 wRC+) while clubbing 30 home runs and stealing 49 bases. Additionally, Witt Jr. led all AL shortstops with 14 outs above average.
Bobby Witt Jr. contract grade, full details
This is a homerun extension for both Witt Jr. and Kansas City. Entering his age 24 season, Witt Jr. locked himself into potentially netting the most money by a shortstop in MLB history while the Royals keep their homegrown superstar under team control for just under $27 million average annual value.
As a rookie and in the first half of his sophomore campaign, Witt Jr. was slightly below average offensively (98 wRC+ in 2022, 96 wRC+ in the first half of 2023) but came into his own at the plate in the second half of last season.
Across 303 second-half plate appearances, Witt Jr. slashed .301/.343/.563 (139 wRC+). Despite a sluggish first half, Witt Jr.’s 115 wRC+ was the seventh-best among qualified shortstops in 2023.
But what separates him from other shortstops is his defensive and base running prowess. Like he did as a rookie offensively, Witt Jr. struggled immensely defensively. Between shortstop and third base, Witt Jr.’s -11 Outs Above Average was the ninth-worst among all defensive players.
In 2023, playing shortstop exclusively, Witt Jr. was one of the most valuable defenders in the sport, producing 14 OAA. His 14.7 Defensive - Fielding and Positional Adjustment combined was the ninth-best among all major leaguers.
Meanwhile, Witt Jr. utilizes his 100th-percentile sprint speed to cause havoc on the bases. Since debuting in 2022, Witt Jr.’s 79 stolen bases are the second-most in MLB while his 49 steals in 2023 led the AL.
But Witt Jr.’s base running value goes beyond stolen bases. His 13.8 Base running runs above average since 2022 lead all MLB players while his 7.0 BsR in 2023 was third in the AL. Additionally, Baseball Savant’s Baserunning Run Value ranked him in the 99th percentile in 2022 and the 100th percentile in 2023.
The scary thing for the rest of the league is that it seems that Witt Jr. is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Steamer projects Witt Jr.’s 2024 wRC+ to rise 121 — which still might be too low. If he can combine elite defense and baserunning with continuously improving offense, Witt Jr. is well on his way toward winning an MVP one day and turning Kansas City back into a contender.