The Detroit Tigers have signed infield prospect Colt Keith to a six-year guaranteed major league contract. The move is unprecedented for the Detroit Tigers organization.
Keith will receive a guaranteed $28,642,500 over the first six years of the deal: $2.5M in 2024, $3.5M in 2025, $4M per season from 2026-27, and $5M per season from 2028-29. The deal also includes a $2M signing bonus, a $10M club option for 2030 with a $2,642,500 buyout, a $13M club option for 2031 with a $1M buyout, and a 2032 option for $15M with a $2M buyout. Each club option includes salary escalators. If all options are exercised and escalators kick in, Keith could earn $82 million over nine seasons as a Tiger.
Keith — who was likely penciled in for a roster spot to begin the 2024 season — is now all but assured of a starting spot in the Tigers’ lineup. He could play second base or third base, or a combination of both positions, depending on need and where the organization feels he is a better fit.
The Tigers selected Keith out of Biloxi, Mississippi High in the fifth round of the 2020 amateur player draft. Baseball America ranks him as the No. 28 overall prospect and MLB Pipeline ranks him No. 22. The 22-year-old infielder slashed .306/.380/.552 for an OPS of .932 in 577 plate appearances between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo last summer. He launched 27 home runs and drove in 101 between the two levels.
Scott Harris, Tigers’ president of baseball operations said in a presser.
“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.”
Keith also commented on the contract:
“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 Tigers now have some cost certainty with one of their top prospects for the next several seasons, but also have Keith under club control through 2032, his age-30 baseball season with all three club options.
Keith — who signed for a $500,000 bonus out of high school — now has secured his future as a member of the Tigers’ organization. There is always the chance that he could have earned more money if he went through two-plus seasons earning the major league minimum and remained healthy, but he is now set for life under any circumstances.
Keith played 35 games in Toledo at second base last season, 21 games at third base and served as the DH for a dozen games. Prior to that, in Erie he played six games at the keystone position, 41 at the hot corner and another dozen games as the DH. The trend is toward second base, perhaps in part due to some arm soreness that he experienced earlier during the 2023 season.
It’s the fourth-largest deal in MLB history for a prospect who has not yet made their major league debut and is a first-time move for a Detroit Tigers’ organization that rarely locked up young prospects into their free agent seasons in recent years.
The move will put Keith on the club’s 40-man roster, which is already full, so another corresponding move will need to be made to make room.