The Tigers announced a six-year contract extension with infield prospect Colt Keith. The deal guarantees Keith $28.6425MM and could max out at $82MM over nine years if three club options (covering the 2030, 2031, and 2032 seasons) are all escalated and exercised. Keith is represented by Munger English Sports Management.
In addition to a $2MM signing bonus, Keith will earn $2.5MM in salary for the 2024 campaign, $3.5MM in 2025, $4MM per season in 2026 and ’27, and $5MM per season in 2028 and ’29. Each club option includes salary escalators, but the values currently break down as follows — the 2030 club option is valued at $10MM with a $2.6425MM buyout, the 2031 option worth $13MM ($1MM buyout), and the 2032 option worth $15MM ($2MM buyout).
Keith, 22, was a fifth-round pick by the Tigers in the 2020 draft and has since ascended rapidly through the minor leagues with a .300/.382/.512 slash line across all levels, including a .306/.380/.552 slash line in 126 games split between Double- and Triple-A last season. The youngster has emerged as a consensus Top-30 prospect in the game, with MLB.com ranking him 22nd while Baseball America placed him 28th. Both president of baseball operations Scott Harris and Keith himself commented on the extension in a press release following the announcement.
“This is a very exciting day for the Detroit Tigers, Colt, his family, and our fans,” Harris said in the presser. “This contract demonstrates our faith in Colt and this organization’s commitment to acquire, develop, and retain young talent.”
“I couldn’t be more excited to reach this agreement, securing my place in this organization for years to come,” Keith added. “There’s a reason I felt strongly about making a long-term commitment to be here, and being surrounded by incredibly talented teammates and coaches is a big part of that… I know this is a big accomplishment, but ultimately my mission is to be the best player possible and help win a World Series Championship for Tigers fans everywhere.”
The 22-year-old Keith has now scored a significant windfall after signing for just a $500K bonus out of the draft. Beyond the financial security, Keith also has certainty that he will remain part of the Tigers’ long-term plans as they look to build upon their surprising second place finish in the AL Central last year. For Detroit, the extension affords the club some cost certainty regarding Keith’s arbitration years plus an additional three seasons of team control. If all three options are exercised, Keith will stay in a Tigers uniform through his age-30 season.
It’s the fourth-largest deal in league history for a prospect who has yet to make their MLB debut. Keith’s extension trails only the guarantees for White Sox outfielders Luis Robert Jr. ($50MM) and Eloy Jimenez ($43MM) as well as the record-setting $82MM deal agreed to by outfield prospect Jackson Chourio and the Brewers earlier this winter.
Keith was already expected to join the big league roster as the Tigers’ everyday second baseman at some point in the year, but today’s deal all but guarantees he’ll be in the lineup on Opening Day if healthy. The deal takes away the opportunity for the Tigers to secure an extra year of team control over the infielder, but Detroit is still eligible for an extra Prospect Promotion Incentive draft pick. This pick would be awarded in the event that Keith earns a full year of service time in 2024 and either wins the AL Rookie of the Year award or places in the top three of MVP voting before he would have been eligible for arbitration.
With Keith likely to occupy the keystone for the Tigers entering the season, the likes of Zach McKinstry, Nick Maton, Andy Ibanez, and Matt Vierling will be competing for playing time at third base when camp opens for Spring Training next month. While the third base keys figure to be handed to another top prospect in Jace Jung at some point in the future, the 23-year-old has not yet made an appearance at the Triple-A level and appears unlikely to break camp with the Tigers. Keith and Jung figure to be the latest in a line of top prospects to reach the majors for Detroit in recent years, including starting pitchers jTarik Skubal and Casey Mize, and position players Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene.
As their prospects begin to reach the majors and establish themselves at the big league level, the Tigers have looked to augment the roster with short-term veteran additions who won’t block the younger players from earning regular playing time. This offseason, Detroit struck early to land outfielder Mark Canha in a deal with the Brewers before bolstering their rotation with by signing free agent right-handers Kenta Maeda and Jack Flaherty. The club has also added reinforcements to their bullpen in the form of Andrew Chafin and Shelby Miller. Those veteran additions figure to strengthen the club’s burgeoning young core as they gear up for a run in what projects to be a relatively weak AL Central division, though the Twins figure to remain the on-paper favorite even after allowing both Maeda and ace righty Sonny Gray to depart via free agency this winter.
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