We often see teams manipulate service time on young studs and keep them down in the minors for a week or two to start the season in order to gain an extra year of team control. We saw the Cubs do it in 2015 with Kris Bryant and the Braves appear to be doing so with hotshot prospect Ronald Acuna this season.
The Phillies on Sunday went in a complete opposite direction, though.
Word broke Sunday afternoon that top prospect Scott Kingery had made the team out of spring training. And then, the Phillies announced a six-year contract with Kingery that also includes three club options, so they have him under control for nine years, should they so choose.
Holy plot twist!
Here's the breakdown, via Matt Gelb of The Athletic (obviously the club options are listed in millions):
Here’s the breakdown of the Scott Kingery contract:— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) March 25, 2018
$1.5 signing bonus
2019: $1.25 mil
2020: $1.5 mil
2021: $4.0 mil
2022: $6.0 mil
2023: $8.0 mil
2024-26 options are $13, $14, $15 with $1 mil buyout.
That means Kingery is now on a six-year deal worth $21.5 million. If he ends up achieving his potential, the three club options would make it nine years and $63.5 million. Now, an All-Star caliber player is certainly worth much more than that, but Kingery bought himself a lot of financial security to protect against injury and/or not hitting his ceiling.
It could prove to be incredibly team friendly if Kingery pans out as expected. As it stands, the contract is easily a record for a player who has not yet hit the majors, eclipsing the Astros' Jonathan Singleton five-year, $10 million deal from several years back. That was previously the only long-term deal in history for a player yet to make his MLB debut.
Kingery, 23, was the Phillies' second-round pick out of Arizona in 2015. He hit .304/.359/.530 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 26 homers and 29 stolen bases between Double-A (69 games) and Triple-A (63) last season. He has been destroying the ball this spring, too, entering Sunday with a .392/.415/.725 slash in 53 plate appearances.
Phillies reporters have said that manager Gabe Kapler plans to use Kingery in some sort of "hybrid" role, which just sounds like a utility man who gets multiple starts every week. He should get quasi-regular playing time, otherwise it would be stupid to have him in the majors and not getting reps.
Kingery has played second, shortstop and third in the minors, but only two games at shortstop. Right now, the Phillies figure to have an infield of Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez, J.P, Crawford and Maikel Franco, but keep in mind Franco and Crawford have yet to prove they can hit MLB pitching over the long haul. Nor has Kingery, obviously, but the point stands that Kingery isn't fully blocked to playing time.
As with the Santana and Jake Arrieta signings in the winter, the Phillies remain aggressive here with their big-league roster and are looking to break through as a contender after several years in a rebuild.