Did Tigers just copy Phillies' mistake with latest long-term deal for top prospect?

Detroit's recent top prospect signing brings up bad memories of the Phillies' long-term contract with Scott Kingery.

Former Philadelphia Phillies top prospect Scott Kingery
Former Philadelphia Phillies top prospect Scott Kingery / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
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When news broke that the Detroit Tigers are following the trend of inking a top prospect to a long-term deal before they've played in the majors, memories of the Philadelphia Phillies' doomed deal with one of their former top prospects came flooding back in all their grizzly horror.

On Sunday, the Tigers announced a six-year, $28.643 million extension for top prospect Colt Keith. The deal includes club options for 2030 ($10 million), 2031 ($13 million), and 2032 ($15 million). The contract, with options and escalators, could be worth $82 million over nine years. Detroit's really banking on the 22-year-old infielder being a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.

The Tigers followed the Milwaukee Brewers' lead. The Brew Crew recently signed one of the top prospects in baseball, the dynamic Jackson Chourio, who has yet to play a game in the majors. Perhaps instead, Detroit's front office should heed the warning from the Phillies' attempt at signing a top prospect to a long-term deal before they've stepped foot on a big league diamond.

Scott Kingery, the Phillies' second-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, made a name for himself with his minor league performance in 2017. In March of 2018, Phillies general manager at the time, Matt Klentak, signed Kingery to a similar six-year, $24 million contract extension which lasted through 2023 with options for 2024-26.

To make a long story short, it didn't work out for the Phillies. This offseason, the club declined the $13 million option for 2024, instead paying a $1 million buyout and reverting Kingery to a minor league deal, with an invite to spring training.

Kingery was good in his first full minor league season in 2016 but broke out in 2017, landing him in the No.2 spot on the Phillies' top prospect rankings and No. 35 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects in 2018.

Nicknamed "Scotty Jetpacks" for his speed, Kingery slashed .304/.359/.530, hit 26 home runs and stole 29 bases between Double- and Triple-A in 2017. But things went downhill after signing his big contract at the end of spring training in 2018. He hit .226 with a .605 OPS in the majors, managing only eight home runs and 10 stolen bases in 147 games. It wasn't the rookie debut season everyone had been hoping for.

Since then, Kingery has appeared in 178 major league games, sporting a .232 batting average and .714 OPS, with 22 home runs and 15 stolen bases — he didn't even make an appearance with the big club last season.

The power-hitting Keith was a fifth-round pick in 2020 and, like Kingery, rose to No. 2 among the Tigers prospects after a big 2023 season. He slashed .306/.380/.552 with 27 home runs between Double- and Triple-A.

Now the Phillies are finally out from under their disastrous contract, and the Tigers are just starting their journey with Colt Keith. Hopefully, for their sake, it's not a mistake that will haunt the organization for years to come.

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