SAN DIEGO -- The man at the center of the Padres' renaissance is staying in San Diego for a long, long time.
Fernando Tatis Jr., a 22-year-old shortstop with generational talent and generational flair, has agreed to a 14-year contract worth $340 million, sources told MLB.com on Wednesday. The club announced the signing on Monday.
The landmark signing is the third-largest contract in MLB history in terms of new total money added and the longest extension in terms of years added to a player's contract. Only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts received larger deals, and they signed those contracts at 27 and on the precipice of free agency. Tatis, meanwhile, has played two seasons in the big leagues and was still a year away from reaching arbitration-eligibility.
The extension begins this year and contains a full no-trade clause, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. It also contains a signing bonus north of $10 million, and none of the money is deferred. It’s the latest in a series of impressive investments by San Diego ownership.
As the Padres embarked on a wild offseason overhaul that saw them revamp and retool their roster into a World Series contender, their focal point remained locking up Tatis in the long term. That came to fruition in recent weeks -- the fourth time in five offseasons the Padres have broken a franchise record with a signing.
From 2017-19, San Diego signed Wil Myers, then Eric Hosmer, then Manny Machado to record deals. Two years ago, when they agreed with Machado on a 10-year, $300 million deal, another superstar was emerging on the left side of the infield.
“My bash brother…. We here to stay,” Machado posted to his Instagram story on Wednesday night.
Tatis landed in San Diego in 2016 in the now-fabled deal that sent James Shields to the White Sox. An unheralded prospect at the time, Tatis quickly became one of the sport’s best young talents. When he was ready for a big league breakthrough, the Padres didn’t balk.
At 20, Tatis was a surprise addition to the team’s 2019 Opening Day roster. He didn’t take long to prove he belonged. Tatis burst onto the scene as a rookie, audaciously tagging from third base on infield popups and evading tags by contorting his body to ridiculous ends. He followed it with an MVP-caliber display in '20, batting .277/.366/.571 with 17 home runs and 11 steals. Tatis finished fourth in National League MVP Award voting and was the catalyst behind the team’s Wild Card Series comeback against St. Louis.
When the Padres lost to the Dodgers in the following round, Tatis said simply: “This is a growing pain. We're just getting started.”
The Padres had built a contender, and Tatis was at the center of it. This long-term marriage was an obvious one. Tatis embraced the city, and the city embraced Tatis. Now he’s poised to spend the next 14 years in San Diego.
Though he has logged less than the equivalent of one season in the Majors, Tatis is off to a historic start, as his 39 homers are the most by any primary shortstop through his first 150 career games. He also made massive gains defensively in Year 2 and possesses one of baseball’s strongest infield throwing arms and top sprint speeds. Tatis is the epitome of a five-tool talent.
Padres manager Jayce Tingler was asked on Thursday whether Tatis could ascend to levels that transcend the sport, the way Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods have in their sports. In some ways, the fact that question was even asked says enough.
“We certainly think that that’s a yes,” Tingler said. “That’s a definite. The talent’s undeniable, and the more you’re around him … it’s just a consistent theme – his drive to win and his drive to improve.”
No question, the contract comes with a measure of risk, considering that Tatis has played only 143 career games. But the Padres clearly think a player of his caliber is well worth it.
“He’s the right guy to market the sport,” Tingler said. “He’s the right guy for the industry of baseball … with the look, the energy, the play, the drive to win, being young and talented and still wanting to grow.”
Tatis plays the game different. When some around the sport admonished him for bat-flipping on a 3-0 count with a seven-run lead last August, he brushed it off and bat-flipped again. Tatis has fun playing baseball, and he does so unapologetically.
And he plans to have an awful lot of fun in San Diego for an awful long time. Fourteen years, to be exact.