Just 143 games played into his Major League Baseball career, Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a 14 year contract extension with the San Diego Padres worth $340 million. Tatis, who recently turned 22 years old, now has the third largest contract in terms of total value in Major League Baseball history behind only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. To further put into perspective how mind blowing Tatis’ extension is, Trout and Betts both signed their extensions at the age of 27 while Tatis will sign his at the age of 22.
Tatis, the son of former MLB player Fernando Tatis Sr., was initially signed by the Chicago White Sox in 2015 when he was just 16 years old. Before he even appeared in a game at the Minor League level, the White Sox (now infamously) traded Tatis to the Padres in exchange for starting pitcher James Shields in 2016. Although he wasn’t a highly regarded prospect at the time of the trade, Tatis quickly established himself as a star in the making throughout his 3 seasons in the Minor Leagues. Prior to making his Major League debut in 2019, Tatis was considered the third best prospect in all of baseball by Fangraphs only behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Wander Franco.
Despite not playing a single Minor League game in AAA, Tatis made the Padres’ Opening Day roster becoming the youngest player in team history (he was 20 years old at the time) to play on Opening Day. Tatis was amazing offensively his rookie year as he slashed .317/.379/.590 with a .398 wOBA, .348 xwOBA, and 150 wRC+. Tatis was not nearly as successful on the other side of the ball as he had -3 DRS, a -5.8 UZR, and -13 OAA in the field. Tatis was limited to just 84 games his rookie season due to a stress fracture in his back but he was still able to produce 3.6 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs). Tatis finished second in National League Rookie of the Year behind Pete Alonso.
Although his .348 xwOBA and .410 BABIP in 2019 suggested Tatis would heavily regress offensively in 2020, that wasn’t the case. In 2020, Tatis slashed .277/.366/.571 with a .392 wOBA, .404 xwOBA and 149 wRC+. Additionally, Tatis made significant progress defensively as he finished the season with 1 DRS, a 0.9 UZR, and a position leading 7 OAA. Across 59 games in the shortened season, Tatis produced 2.9 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs) which was the fourth most in the Majors behind Jose Ramirez, Freddie Freeman, and Mookie Betts. Tatis finished fourth in National League Most Valuable Player voting behind Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, and teammate Manny Machado.
My grade for the Padres
I would give the Padres an A for extending Tatis. Although there is definitely some risk since he hasn’t even played 162 Major League games in his career, the reward definitely outweighs the potential risk. It is likely that Tatis’ best days have yet to come as he is only 22 years old and his “prime years” are likely still a few years away. Assuming Tatis is at least able to somewhat maintain his current production, a $26.15 million Average Annual Value is likely a bargain for the Padres. In addition to his outstanding play on the field, Tatis has become a marketing gem which will be great for jersey and ticket sales among many other possible benefits for the Padres. I’m not a huge fan of the 14 year aspect but as long as Tatis is good for at least 8 or 9 years and the team wins a World Series, it shouldn’t matter too much.