The Kansas City Royals have had a pretty substantial offseason, especially compared to the mostly quiet happenings around the rest of the baseball. But the biggest news is that the team just signed star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to the largest contract in team history, an 11-year deal guaranteeing nearly $288.78 million.
There are some particulars to the deal, including a potential three-year contract extension on top of that and some opt-out clauses for Witt after the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth years of the deal. But that being said, it's a gargantuan deal for Witt and a sign the Royals are serious about contending for years to come.
In looking at the structure of Witt's deal, and the glaring need for the Guardians to sign first baseman Josh Naylor to an extension, should this be the potential framework for Cleveland's offer?
What Would a Josh Naylor Extension Look Like?
At this point, it's fairly clear Naylor should be the next Guardian to get a massive contract extension. Now, if Cleveland used Witt's deal as the basis, it would quickly became the largest extension in team history, not long after the José Ramírez signed his five-year extension that guaranteed him $150 million.
But Naylor - who was just named one of MLB Network's top 100 players - is no doubt showing that he's worth every penny. Even though he was eventually slowed by injury, Naylor broke out in 2023, slashing .308/.354/.489 with 17 home runs, 31 doubles, 97 RBI, and a 133 OPS+. Aside from Ramírez, Naylor was the other true bright spot in the lineup for most of the season - the team needs both of these guys to anchor the offense as more young talent continues to come up through the minor-league system.
There are a couple questions that would likely cap the number of years on such a deal. For starters, Naylor is 26 years old, while Witt is only 23. Naylor has also had his fair share of injuries the past few years, ranging from run-of-the-mill to devastating/impossible to watch. However, he has since made the move to being a full-time first baseman and would likely get more DH time as the years went on. Plus, any potential opt-out clauses could mitigate some concern on both sides.
But if we're talking a yearly salary of around $26 million for Naylor, quickly becoming one of the best first basemen in the game, that would end up being a steal for Cleveland.
At the moment the Royals seem to be the only AL Central team all that interested in improving itself this offseason; they remain a true candidate to surprise everyone in the division. Still, the Guardians have a lot going for them and a bright future of their own - one that would be a whole heck of a lot brighter if they can find a way to keep Josh Naylor for the long run.