Pitchers and catchers reported to training camps on Wednesday, and the San Diego Padres marked the traditional passage of spring by turning the baseball world on its head by announcing they had signed Fernando Tatis, Jr. to a staggering 14-year, $340 million contract, according to reports.
The deal is the third-biggest (in terms of total dollars) in baseball history, behind Mike Trout’s 12-year, $430 million contract, and the 12-year, $365 million deal Mookie Betts signed with the Dodgers, who got him from the Red Sox, who decided they didn’t want to win anymore.
What’s stunning about Tatis’ package is that he wasn’t a free agent. He’s 22 and under team control for four more years. The deal is basically unprecedented in baseball history for such a young player.
But if you’re going to put out that much money for a player, it might as well be Tatis. He’s the real deal. He’s got the baseball pedigree, like baseball gods Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. Tatis’ dad wasn’t as good as Griffey Sr. or Bobby Bonds, but Fernando Sr. played 14 years in the majors and was a young star himself once, hitting 34 homers (including two grand slams in one inning, yes that actually happened) as a 24-year-old in 1999.
Tatis Jr. burst onto the scene in 2019 at just 20 years old, hitting .317 with 22 homers in little more than half a season. The list of shortstops who hit anything like that at that age is just short: Alex Rodriguez.
Tatis didn’t disappoint in his sophomore season, leading the Padres into the playoffs and finishing fourth in MVP voting at age 21.
Tatis has played in 143 games so far in his big league career and hit 39 HRs, scored 111 runs, driven in 98 and stole 27 bases to go along with a .301 AVG, .374 OBP and .956 OPS.
And unlike A-Rod, who has spent most of his life in the public eye, never quite comfortable with himself and never really beloved, Tatis did it with flair, style and had a fun time doing it! He’s got a swagger that makes it seem like he must have been imported from another sport. He doesn’t care about your dumb unwritten rules, he’s too busy hitting grand slams. He’s on the cover of MLB The Show 21 (see left), and if baseball is smart (Hint: it isn’t), it’ll work on marketing him for the length of his contract, if not more.
Could Tatis become a disappointment? It’s possible, but very few players are as good as he is at such a young age. It’s a better bet at this point that our civilization will collapse, humans transition from late-stage capitalism to indentured servants on Elon Musk’s Mars colony, or paper money is replaced by Dogecoin.
Best of all, Tatis’ contract proves the Padres are serious about winning and competing with the oppressive Los Angeles Dodgers. The Padres made their first foray into stupid money territory two years ago by signing Manny Machado to a $300 million deal. That’s two guys making enough between them to almost cover Donald J. Trump’s legal bills for the rest of his life, and definitely enough to expose the sham of 25 or so MLB teams who like to pretend they can’t afford to pay real talent.