The Milwaukee Brewers made a major splash during the Winter Meetings by reportedly signing top prospect Jackson Chourio to a landmark contract.
Chourio, 19, has not played in an MLB game. He was in Double-A for the majority of last season. Still, he signed an eight-year, $82 million deal with the Brewers.
The Brewers went all in on Chourio’s potential and will retain him through the 2033 season; there are two club options with incentives and escalators. Chourio could end up making close to $142.5 million over 10 years.
This leads to another question: What’s holding up a Royals extension with Bobby Witt Jr.?
Chourio still has to make the Brewers’ 2024 big-league roster. Meanwhile, Witt just produced a historic season.
Witt still hasn’t hit arbitration and has four years of club control remaining. He is commonly mentioned alongside Julio Rodriguez, Corbin Carroll and Ronald Acuña Jr. as the next generation of MLB stars.
But this is worth noting: Those guys have hefty long-term contracts. They are franchise stars on ascending teams.
Witt’s future in Kansas City has been a long-running topic. In 2022, Royals general manager J.J. Picollo told reporters that a contract extension had “loosely been discussed.”
At the time, Witt was finishing out his rookie season. He recorded 20 home runs, 80 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 150 games. That production led to a fourth-place finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Witt elevated his game in his second year.
He became the first Royal to record a 30-30 season and made MLB history in the process. Witt is also the first MLB player to have at least 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in each of his first two big-league seasons.
Witt solidified his superstar status. He professed his love for the Royals organization and acknowledged the contract negotiations.
“I think there is some talks here and there, so we’re just kind of waiting to see,” Witt said in November. “I love this organization and love this team. It’s just kind of one of those things. If the time is right, the time’s right.”
When is that right time? Several Royals fans have pondered that question out loud.
Picollo didn’t provide much of an update at the Winter Meetings. He remained steadfast that discussions are ongoing with Witt’s representatives.
“Yeah, it’s just ongoing dialogue,” Picollo said. “Again, we won’t get into the specifics of that at any point. I can just tell you that there’s ongoing dialogue between us, Bobby and his representation that we’re optimistic that we can keep pushing in the right direction.”
Here’s the big picture.
There are two topics that loom over the Royals franchise as they attempt to rebuild after a 56-106 season — tied for the most losses in franchise history:
A potential new (and possibly downtown) stadium
Establishing and locking down a young core, including Witt
Witt can help the Royals in that regard. He is the team’s biggest star of the last decade and has been as advertised since his 2019 MLB Draft selection.
Also of note: The Royals have time to sign Witt to a long-term extension. He won’t be a free agent until the 2028 season. But Witt could price himself out of the Royals’ financial range with his play in the next few years, which adds some urgency on KC’s end.
Then, there is another important factor: What exactly does Witt want to do?
It’s possible he wants to play out his contract over the next few years and then decide on his future.
“There’s plenty of players over the last 10 years that didn’t necessarily take the greatest financial deal that they could have gotten,” Picollo said. “Sometimes it’s fit, sometimes it’s location. Sometimes it’s a coach. You know, who knows what it could be? But players like Bobby are extremely confident in their abilities.
“And because of that, they can be patient. That’s why we have to show our patience as well.”
There is an old saying that “patience is a virtue.” Time will tell what the right balance is.
The Royals have a young core and want to be competitive in the AL Central next season. They want to find the right pieces and lock down their top talent, but patience will also be a factor as they attempt to find a deal that works for both Witt and the club.
Witt is undoubtedly part of the Royals’ future plans as they look for their first winning season since the 2015 World Series run.
But, for now, contract talks remain in progress.