Bobby Witt Jr. hopes to lead Royals into bright future: ‘It felt like home from day one’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The day after signing a massive deal with the Kansas City Royals, shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. spoke with the media about his commitment to the club and what he believes the future holds.

Royals general manager J.J. Picollo and owner John Sherman joined Witt Jr. at the team facility on Tuesday to detail how this 14-year contract worth $377.7 million unfolded.

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The negotiations with Witt heated up in September, according to Picollo. Once the new year came, the club felt good about their chances to extend the shortstop’s contract.

“It felt like home from day one,” Witt Jr. said at the mic. “I think now’s just the perfect time. Had a bad year last year but now just trying to build off that.”

“What can we do to keep performing? You just saw all the moves (the front office) made this offseason, and it’s a sign of hope. It just felt like this is the right time and it’s an exciting time for sure.”

He even talked about a special text he received from part-owner of the Royals, Kansas City Chief Patrick Mahomes, when the quarterback heard the news.

“He was pretty fired up,” Witt Jr. said. “(Mahomes) said, ‘Let’s go, can’t wait to see what you do for the city and what’s to come.’ And I just said, ‘Bring another (Lombardi Trophy) home and that will be a start.'”

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Before the Witt Jr. extension, the Royals dipped deeper into their bag than what fans are used to seeing. They spent more than $100 million on free agents to patch some of the holes on a roster that lost over 100 games in 2023.

Kansas City boosted the starting pitching rotation by signing Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo while addressing the bullpen with World Series champion acquisitions like Chris Stratton and Will Smith.

To help Witt defend the diamond the Royals added right fielder Hunter Renfroe and second baseman/utility player Adam Frazier.

“Not only with Bobby, but all of the free agents with the commitments we’ve made this offseason, it was a great offseason for us, and we’re excited about 2024 and years to come,” J.J. Picollo said.

“The moves they made this offseason just shows you they want to win now and it’s time to win now,” Witt Jr. said. “We have a lot of talent and maybe we didn’t perform the way we wanted to in the past but I think that now with adding those guys it’s going to really help our team.”

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“We have guys that have won a World Series in the past, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to be able to pick their brains and just compete.”

The Royals haven’t appeared in the playoffs since their World Series run in 2015. Despite that, Sherman believes the club has had a winning mindset, but he realizes the results have not matched that.

“We’ve been committed to winning for a long time. At the end of the day, it can’t just be what you say it has to be what you do,” Sherman said.

Picollo emphasized that the most important thing to Witt Jr. is winning. The shortstop sees a light at the end of the tunnel despite 106 losses from last year.

He believes this team will win games, and he proved that by signing his long contract just a year away from his arbitration period with the club.

Although free agency has been leaned on heavily this offseason, that isn’t what the Royals want to have to do every year.

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“Free agency has helped us at this period of time,” Picollo said. “We don’t want to rely on free agents, we want a good farm system, so that’s not going to change for us. We got to scout well, we got to develop well and put players internally around Bobby and then be able to acquire free agents when needed.”

Witt Jr.’s dad, Bobby Witt Sr. is a former MLB pitcher from 1986 to 2001. Witt Jr. has been submersed in baseball for a long time and it has shaped him into a talented and selfless baseball player.

“Clearly Bobby’s background being the son of a long-time major league player makes a difference,” Picollo said. “But his work ethic and the type of person that knows he’s the most talented guy when he steps on the field but cares about his teammates just as much. That’s a very special quality.”

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“I’ve never run into a player, a coach, front office – he’s the guy everybody enjoys being around,” Picollo added. “When you think about long-term, some of the things he can do for us, players are going to want to come play with Bobby Witt Jr.,” Picollo added.

The 14-year contract structure that will incrementally increase his salary up until 2029 suits Witt Jr. Ultimately he just wanted to be in Kansas City.

“This is where I wanted to be, that was the main goal. How it’s structured, gives some ball in my court at some point, but other than that I just wanted to be here long-term.”

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