SAN DIEGO (AP) — Fernando Tatis Jr. has helped make baseball fun again in San Diego.
In return, the Padres have agreed to give the electrifying shortstop a $340 million, 14-year deal that could keep him with San Diego until he’s 35 years old, according to two people familiar with the situation.
The two people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday night because the deal hadn’t been announced.
It will be the longest contract signed in MLB history. Giancarlo Stanton, now with the New York Yankees, signed a 13-year, $325 million deal with Miami in 2015. Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with Philadelphia in 2019. The biggest deal by dollars remains Mike Trout’s $426.5 million, 12-year contract signed with the Angels in 2019.
The 22-year-old Tatis has bloomed into a superstar in less than two full seasons with the Padres, hitting .301 with 39 home runs, 98 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 143 games. He helped San Diego end a 13-year playoff drought in 2020 and win a wild-card series against the St. Louis Cardinals before the Padres were swept by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.
He has quickly become one of the faces of baseball. He stands out because of his flair, easy smile, blond dreadlocks flowing from under his cap, a uniform dirtied by his hard-charging play and his dance moves in the dugout after hitting home runs.
Tatis was literally raised in the game at the feet of his father, who played 11 seasons in the big leagues. He has dared to challenge old-school norms — after hitting his second home run in an 11-9 win in Game 2 of the wild-card series against the Cardinals, he unleashed an emphatic bat flip. A photo of Tatis in that moment is on the cover of the video game MLB The Show ’21.
In August, Tatis caused a stir when he hit a grand slam on a 3-0 count with the Padres leading the Texas Rangers by seven runs. The furor died down and the Padres became the first team in MLB history to hit grand slams in four straight games and five in six games.
Tatis comes from San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic, also known as the Cradle of Shortstops.
San Diego promoted Tatis to the majors on opening day of 2019, forgoing the chance to delay his free agency by waiting a few weeks — a reality of the game experienced by other young stars like Kris Bryant with Chicago Cubs and Harper with the Washington Nationals.
Tatis has two years of service and would have been eligible for salary arbitration for the first time next offseason. While his deal sets a record for length, Tatis may have left dollars on the table if he continues on his star trajectory. His $24.29 million average salary will rank just 19th in the sport.
It’s the first big payday for Tatis, who got a $700,000 signing bonus as an amateur from the White Sox in 2015, earned $555,555 as a rookie in 2019 and $219,185 in prorated pay last season.
Tatis played only 84 games in 2019 before being shut down by a stress reaction in his lower back. He still finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting. He batted .277 with 17 homers and 45 RBIs in 59 games last year.
He’s a threat on the basepaths and has made several spectacular plays at shortstop. He was named All-MLB First Team shortstop in 2020.
After committing 18 errors in 83 games in the field in 2019, he vowed to tighten his defense and committed only three errors in 57 games last year.
This is the third big contract given by the Padres the last four seasons. They gave slugger Manny Machado a $300 million, 10-year deal before the 2019 season — Machado and Tatis are both represented by Dan Lozano of MVP Sports — and signed first baseman Eric Hosmer to a $144 million, eight-year deal in 2018.
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