Could the Twins hand out a Colt Keith-type deal for one of their top prospects?

It's a massive risk, but times changing could force the Twins to pay up early.
Tampa Bay Ravs v Minnesota Twins
Tampa Bay Ravs v Minnesota Twins / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

It's been a pretty big week for guys who haven't made their MLB debut yet.

All week MLB Pipeline has been slowly releasing its updated ranking of top prospects in baseball, first by position and then revealing this year's Top 100. Three Minnesota Twins players ranked in the Top 50, with two ranking in the Top 10 at their respective position.

Elsewhere, teams are handing out massive deals to their top guys before having even seen what they can truly do.

On Sunday the Detroit Tigers gave Colt Keith a six-year, $28 million deal, which is notable because the No. 22 prospect in baseball has yet to make his MLB debut. This has been somewhat of a growing trend this winter, as Keith isn't the only top prospect to land a massive deal before even setting foot in the majors.

Ahead of the Winter Meetings in December, the Milwaukee Brewers handed out a $82 million deal to Jackson Chourio despite having not yet made his debut.

These types of deals are rare, although not unheard of, and have carried varying degrees of risk and reward. The White Sox have done it twice, inking Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert to to combined deals worth almost $100M before they debuted with both developing into top players in the league even if the team hasn't lived up to their end of things.

Meanwhile the Phillies gave Scott Kingery a six-year, $24 million deal that hasn't panned out while the Mariners giving Evan White an identical deal ended with him being traded to Atlanta this winter.

Both Chourio and Keith are expected to get called up this season, but the fact that they both landed massive deals before taking a big league swing begs the question of whether or not the Twins have any guys that could fall into this category.

Which Twins top prospects could get a Cole Keith or Jackson Chourio deal?

Typically the Twins don't get involved in this sort of business until they have to, mostly because of frugalness. Minnesota doesn't spend, something painfully evident this offseason, but the organization has long prided itself on the ability to home grow its own talent.

Joe Mauer is the shining example of that, as the kid from St. Paul was elected to Cooperstown after having spent his entire career with the Twins. Both Kirby Puckett and Bert Blyleven join Mauer as Hall of Famers who were developed as homegrown stars.

The entire history of the Twins is littered with homegrown talent making an impact as member of beloved teams: Doug Mientkiewicz, Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, Kent Hrbek.

Minnesota's current lineup boasts home grown stars like Byron Buxton, Royce Lewis, and Edouard Julien as well as potential high-impact pitchers like Louie Varland and Bailey Ober. There are more young players on the horizon hoping to make an impact, a few of which are extremely high on the top prospect list.

Walker Jenkins is the first name that comes to mind, as he's the No. 10 overall prospect this season and feels of the generation of players getting these sorts of deals. Chourio is the No. 2 prospect in this year's ranking while Keith is at No. 22, so there's reason to believe that if Walker delievers on insane early hype he could be in line for a pre-debut monster contract.

Even if the Twins don't usually hand these deals out, Walker would be well within his rights to ask. The writing could be on the wall, too, as he took Minnesota right up to the deadline in signing his initial deal after the draft which could be a precursor to a Chourio-type conversation happening in a few years.

More immediately the Twins have two other Top 50 prospects for whom Keith's deal could get the wheels turning. Brooks Lee is expected to make his debut this season, and he's the second-best prospect in the farm system. Not only that, he's the No. 18 overall prospect in this year's rankings and was carrying the type of hype that Buxton and Lewis had despite having only been in the organization since 2022.

Lee has proven he's ready to make the leap this year, and he inked his deal just a year after Chourio's first deal with the Brewers. The Twins have been hyping him as a key piece of the future core, which makes it hard to not compare him to this situation.

Emmanuel Rodriguez is the most unlikely of the Twins trio of top prospects to get this sort of deal, but it shouldn't be ruled out. He's expected to make the jump in 2025, and he could be well-positioned to make some demands based on what the outfield situation looks like after this season.

While the Twins haven't dealt in this realm before, it does feel like the sort of deal they'd make. Chourio is sacrificing future earnings by cashing in now, while the Brewers are paying a lot for an unproven player who could develop into a superstar that they're getting on a crazy cheap value for.

What team does that sound like?

It's worth remembering, though, that these sorts of pre-debut deals are very rare. The Twins like to get their money's worth and squeeze value out of every penny, so we'll see if times potentially changing forces Minnesota to alter it's approach.

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