Tigers Sign Colt Keith To Six-Year Extension

The Tigers announced today that they’ve extended infield prospect Colt Keith on a six-year contract with club options for the 2030, 2031, and 2032 seasons. Each club option includes salary escalators. The deal guarantees Keith $28.6425MM and could max out at $82MM over nine years if all three options are escalated and exercised. 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. Before escalators, the 2030 club option is valued at $10MM with a $2.6425MM buyout while the 2031 option is valued at $13MM with a $1MM buyout and the 2032 option is valued at $15MM with a $2MM buyout.

Keith, 22, was a fifth-round pick by the Tigers in the 2020 draft and since then has 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 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.”

For Keith, the deal secures the 22-year-old a significant windfall after he signed for just $500K out of the draft while also granting him certainty that he will remain part of Detroit’s long-term plans as they look to build upon their surprising second place finish in the AL Central last year. For the Tigers, the deal not only affords the club cost certainty regarding Keith’s arbitration years but also offers the team an additional three seasons of team control over the infielder, potentially keeping him in a Tigers uniform through his age-30 season if all three options are exercised. It’s the fourth-largest deal in MLB history for a prospect who has yet to make their major league debut, behind only the guarantees for White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Jr. and Eloy Jimenez as well as the 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 while still allowing the club to be eligible for a draft pick from the prospect promotion incentive 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, that leaves the likes of Zack McKinstry, Nick Maton, Andy Ibanez, and Matt Vierling to compete for playing time at third base when camp opens for Spring Training next month. While the keys to the position 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 the Tigers in recent years, joining starters such as Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize as well as hitters 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 big league club with short-term veteran additions who won’t block the club’s young players from earning regular playing time. This offseason, the team struck early to land outfielder Mark Canha in a deal with the Brewers before bolstering their rotation with deals for 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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