The San Diego Padres and a superstar shortcut Fernando Tatis Jr. agreed A 14-year contract extension to $ 340 million On Wednesday night, a source told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal is the third largest deal in MLB history, only lagging behind Mookie Betts‘i Mike Troutis a record salary.
What does the deal mean for Tatis, Padres and the rest of the sport? Will San Diego win its first World Series with Tatis as the trademark of its franchise? Where does the newly paid Friar rank among the best MLB players? And who could be in line for the next big extension? We asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield and Bradford Doolittle to weigh in.
Fourteen years, $ 340 million? What do you earn from the years and total dollars that Padres gives to his young superstar?
Doolittle: Fourteen is … really a long time. At the end of this deal, the teams will fly from their hotels – which will be built in the skies like Land’s city in “Empire Strikes Back” – to the hovercraft playground. Everyone will have a robotic maid named Rosie with her feet on roller skates. But by then, who knows, maybe $ 30 million would be enough to cover a one-year rent for a studio apartment in the Gaslamp neighborhood of San Diego. Padres will play in a stadium built on stilts. My feeling is that the Padres think Fernando Tatis Jr. will. be really good for a very long time. If anyone is worth a contract like this at 22, it’s probably him.
Schoenfield: I don’t think we should swear here, but holy … cow! We are talking about the redemption of his years as a free agent. I like this. I love that Padres spends money on locking a player who could be the best and most exciting cornerstone of the franchise in the game for the next ten years, a player who – yes – has the potential to be the best in franchise history. It’s not without risk, as Tatis had a back injury as a rookie; but according to what we have seen in his two seasons in the major disciplines, if he stays healthy, this will prove to be a wise investment for the Padres.
What does it mean for Padres that Tatis is so young locked up for his major years?
Doolittle: The Padres see what everyone sees, and that is that Tatis is a full package – and not just because of what he does on the field. He’s a great hitter whose climax is still good in the future. He has great physical skills and holds the most important defensive position on the field. But he’s big too, so one day he’ll be All-Star in other positions. And for a team that hasn’t had a true franchise icon since Tony Gwynn retired, Tatis could be that for the Padres, as well as for the whole of baseball. More than anything, it signals to San Diego fans that pads aren’t filled just for the short-term challenge Dodging Los Angeles. They plan to be a factor year after year.
Schoenfield: That means the Padres will sell a lot of tickets in the coming seasons as they go along with the Dodgers in the best rivalry in MLB since Boston Red Sox–New York Yankees around 2004. I think a lesson should be learned here for all organizations, large or small markets: Padres did not mess with Tatis ’service in 2019 while making the opening Day list. They could keep him at Triple-A for a few weeks to save another season of team control. Maybe that gesture helped them conclude Tatis with this contract.
Fernando Tatis Jr. hits the home series on opposite ground and celebrates in style during Padres ’playoffs with the Cardinals.
Where is Tatis currently among the best baseball players?
Doolittle: He was shortlisted. Mike Trout has not yet given up his crown, and if he does, Mookie Betts is probably in the best position to take his place. After that, you enter a group of fast-growing people, including Tatis, Juan Soto i Ronald Acuna Jr. There will be others who will rise to challenge, like perhaps the Wandering Franco. But as we prepare for that debate, it’s important to keep in mind that there are only a handful of transcendent players in the major leagues at any given time and that the Padres have locked one of them in the foreseeable future.
Schoenfield: It’s right at the top. He now has approximately the entire playing season (148 games, 629 appearances on the board) and has hit .301 / .374 / .582 with 39 home, 27 stolen balls and 7.0 WAR. His board discipline improved in 2020, when he reduced the strike rate from 29.6% to 23.7%. He enters his age of 22 and has a chance to be the best player in the game – which, surprisingly, is not as rare as it sounds.
Ten players led their league in bWAR at 22: Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Bryce Harper, Stan Musial, Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken Jr., Pete Reiser, Mike Trout, Johnny Bench and Rogers Hornsby. These are all players from the inner circle, except Harper (who could not compete that season in 2015) and Reiser (who got injured). Like Brad, I would still bow to Trout or Betts the best that was in 2021, but Tatis has potential from the inner circle.
To start a team, where would Tatis rank among the current players you would choose to build?
Doolittle: If we take the question as a face value – starting a team – then we are talking about a process that takes some time and that is why I would take over Tutsi, Betts or anyone else. The reasons are obvious and reflect those who inspired the Padres to this investment. Tatis is very young and very good; has a skill and position profile that will keep it sustainable for a long time to come; and best of all, it gives my team an instant identity and a reason to come to the stadium, no matter what else is going on.
Schoenfield: While I could still consider trout or betts, I think I would be targeting one of the three young phenomena. Acuna has a higher speed and is a better defender than Soto, but Acuna will ultimately limit his offensive speed. Acuna is amazing though, hitting .250 / .406 / .581 in 2020. Soto, however, has a chance to be a generational hitter in Williams fashion with funny lines with triple lines like .351 / .490 /.695. If Soto can do it every season, I will live with his defense. But for all-round shine, I’ll go with Tatis, who has developed into at least an average bar in defense, maybe a little better. This gives him an affection for Acuna or Soto. (The only caveat is the back injury Tatis suffered in 2019, perhaps making the other two safer long-term decisions.)
The shortcut is currently loaded in MLB: Where does Tatis rank among the best in the game in position?
Doolittle: Tatis is perhaps the best shot in the position. As for all-around, I might still lean Francisco Lindor, but that would be a difficult call. And even that question is only if we talk about which guy offers a better chance of winning this year. If we expand the time frame even more, then it is Tatis, no doubt. It may already be Tatis.
Schoenfield: Yes, I think so is Tatis. Lindor is approaching the defense, but he had a maximum of 0.335 OBP in his best season (and only 0.335 in each of the past two seasons). Lindor’s stamina is a big plus, and we have yet to see how Tatis will fare in that category. Ultimately, I am a believer in Tatis’ defense, so he gets my vote (with further apologies to the underrated Trevor Story, and I feel Corey Seager will have a huge 2021).
How many world series will Padres win during Tatis’ contract?
Doolittle: Two. The Padres are ready for the annual fight and as long as they can avoid too many disastrous contracts, they seem ready to play on a pretty high payroll. And of course, this is a very good and still deep agricultural system.
Consider this: Padres signed Ha-Seong Kim over the winter and is currently profiling himself as a first-league transfer. With San Diego they will play second base or move. Then there’s CJ Abrams, the best lead client in the category that doesn’t stray Franco and one of the best overall looks in the game. When you already have perhaps the best player of the game in that place, it’s an amazing luxury. Let’s say Tatis piles up and loses some defensive range. All right, move him and let Abrams do his thing. Or move Abrams if he forces you and use him in, say, the center field. Or use Abrams to dock a plugin that aligns the list. San Diego is, in the best sense of the word, burdened.
Schoenfield: I’m curious to see what’s going on Eric Hosmer i Wil Myers In 2021, because they both performed far above their career norms in the shortened season. If they return to earth, the insult could be more than good – and that makes the Dodgers the deciding favorite, at least this season, and perhaps 2022, before the next wave with Abrams and Abrams. Luis Campusano exerts influence.
Not to mention Atlanta Braves have an excellent foundation, and New York Mets maybe build one too. But the Padres will be there in due course. (Brad didn’t even mention a potential future ace, MacKenzie Gore.) It’s just that the National League will be a bloodbath for the near future. So I’m going to lean more conservatively and say one headline.
What young star could be next to get a megadeal like Tatis ’contract?
Doolittle: Soto looks good. The Washington Nationals have resources, and after the loss of Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in recent years they feel motivated to keep two stars in Soto and Trea Turner. Soto will not adopt a commitment at the level of Tatis, because he is an outside player from the corner; but again, Soto could be Ted Williams from 2021, so you never know.
Schoenfield: Soto makes sense. Max Scherzer, 36, will be a free agent after 2021, and if the Nats bring him back, it will be short given his age; so they need to keep Soto as the face of the franchise superstar. How would it be Cody Bellinger and Dodgers? He is a free agent only after 2023, but if Seager leaves after this season, he may want to lock Bellinger to a long-term deal.