Fernando Tatis Jr. deal confirms his status as the face of baseball

Fernando Tatis Jr. will spend the next 14 years of his already blossoming career in San Diego after signing an MLB record contract on Wednesday.

He plays the game with infectious enthusiasm and flair. His talent, from booming home runs to his wizardry at shortstop, has already elevated him to superstar status. And, on Wednesday, the San Diego Padres confirmed what was already becoming obvious: Fernando Tatis Jr. is the future of Major League Baseball.

The Padres and their 22-year-old phenom have agreed to a 14-year, $340 million deal, the longest contract in MLB history. Tatis will be tied to the Padres franchise until he’s 36. Just two years after his debut, the deal is validation for Tatis’ meteoric rise to the top of the baseball world.

Tatis has yet to play a full season’s worth of games in his big league career. But over a 162-game schedule, his totals average out to 44 home runs, 111 RBI, a .301 batting average, and a .956 OPS. Only three active players—Cody Bellinger, Miguel Cabrera, and Albert Pujols—have even one season with those totals in their careers. Tatis has already won a Silver Slugger award and been an MVP candidate, all before turning 22.

Given a chance to showcase his talents in the postseason for the first time in 2020, he shone brighter than the afternoon sun blaring down on San Diego. In the Wild Card round against St. Louis, he snared an off-target throw while keeping his foot on the bag for a forceout, hit a 109-mph double down the left-field line to drive in a run, and made a diving catch just off the outfield grass. And that was in the same game. His opposite-field home run in Game 2, followed by an iconic bat flip and casual jog around the bases, planted him firmly on highlight reels.

Tatis might not fit what traditionalists think a baseball star should be. His grand slam on a 3-0 pitch during a regular-season game against Texas sparked a conversation about the “unwritten rules” of baseball. But that’s just what makes Tatis the next big star of the game: he has fun playing, and he’s not afraid to show it.

Already his superstar status has been recognized after just two seasons in the big leagues. His jersey was the fourth-highest seller in 2020. He’s featured as the cover boy for the MLB The Show ’21 video game. Topps is showcasing him as card No. 1 in their 2021 set following a nationwide fan vote, an honor that has gone to the likes of Mike Trout and Aaron Judge in the past.

San Diego isn’t a normal baseball powerhouse. Having Tatis anchoring their lineup for the next 14 years, though, will change that. The Padres will be featured twice on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball within the first seven weeks of the season. The first of those games will be against NL West rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It doesn’t have the history of the Yankees vs. Red Sox, but the Padres-Dodgers promises to be the next great rivalry in the league. The Dodgers have their face of the game in Mookie Betts; the Padres have Tatis. San Diego has spent the offseason trying to keep pace with their California nemesis and defending World Series champions, trading for pitchers Blake Snell and Yu Darvish.

The Dodgers have the World Series trophy sitting in their collection. The Padres have one postseason appearance in the last 14 years. But Tatis is transforming San Diego from a baseball afterthought to perennial contenders. And he’s doing it with a smile and some passion.

He’s an MLB marketing department’s dream come true. Tatis’ face will be featured everywhere soon, and thanks to his new mega-deal, it will always be in a Padres uniform.

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