Fernando Tatis Jr. is a big deal… with a big deal…
The 22-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop, nicknamed “El Niño“, has agreed to a 14-year, $340 million contract extension with the San Diego Padres, securing one of the largest guarantees in American sports history and marrying himself to the team with which he quickly established himself as a star, according to ESPN.
Tatis, the emerging face of baseball, will receive the third-biggest deal in baseball history — and do so at a far younger age than Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, both of whom signed their megadeals at 27.
The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Tatis, whose dazzling shortstop play is perhaps exceeded by his prowess at the plate, went to San Diego via trade and is now the player around whom the Padres will build a team equipped to win a championship.
Full of substance to back up his style, Tatis blitzed through the minor leagues after the Padres acquired him from the Chicago White Sox in a deal for aging starter James Shields. His talent in spring training was so apparent in 2019 that San Diego started him at shortstop on Opening Day, eschewing the standard play of sending supreme talents to the minor leagues to manipulate their service time and keep them under team control for an extra season.
The mutual admiration between the team and Tatis was clear enough that the Padres hoped it wouldn’t be a mistake. And with a deal that will lock him up for nearly a decade and a half, through his age-35 season, the Padres convinced Tatis that small-market San Diego is where he belongs.
Tatis wasn’t willing to relinquish control of that. He will receive a full no-trade clause, allowing him veto power over any potential deal. The $340 million marks the largest deal given to a player before he reaches arbitration — nearly $200 million more than Trout’s first contract extension. Trout’s second extension set a domestic sports record of $426.5 million guaranteed, and Betts’ $392 million deal is now followed by Tatis’ contract.
Tatis joins Manny Machado, who plays third base next to him, as Padres with $300 million-plus deals — and they join New York Yankees duo Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton as teammates with such gaudy contracts. Both Machado and Tatis are represented by agent Dan Lozano.
Machado’s agreement with San Diego before the 2019 season was a turning point for the organization, which has positioned itself as the greatest threat to the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who happen to play in the Padres’ division. San Diego blossomed during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, with Tatis playing a front-and-center role after a dynamic rookie season that ended because of injury.
Hitting leadoff, with his trademark dreadlocked hair flowing out of his batting helmet and a bat flip at the ready, Tatis was the best player in the game for the first half of the season, an unstoppable combination of raw talent, polish and excitement, the sort that is evident even to the casual fan.
His appearances in more commercials — for Major League Baseball and products he was selling — illustrated that Tatis might be different than other would-be stars. The sport, starving for someone with wide appeal, struck gold with Tatis, who was raised in the Dominican Republic by his father, longtime major league infielder Fernando Tatis, and his mother, Maria.
Tatis wasn’t a highly touted prospect when he signed with the White Sox as a 16-year-old. The athleticism, the explosiveness, all of the skills he now wields — they were simply tools back then. Maybe they would arrive, maybe they wouldn’t.
San Diego saw something different — a player who, in his first year after signing, grew, gained muscle, started looking the part. After the trade, he grew another inch, then another, and by the time Tatis was embarrassing Double-A pitchers, he looked the part of a future star.
To become that so quickly, not just finishing fourth in the MVP voting in 2020 but compelling a team to guarantee $340 million, speaks to the Padres’ commitment to Tatis. They could have kept him for four more seasons before he reached free agency. Instead, after he hit .277/.366/.571 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in 59 games, they gave Tatis more than any free agent ever has received.
Talks between the sides picked up early this week, and sources familiar with the discussions expected a deal to get done. One of this size? One of this magnitude? Well, when Tatis does something, he tends to do it big.