8:46 PM ET

Jeff Passanespan


ESPN MLB Insider

The author’s hand: The billion-dollar secret of sports’ most precious commodity

Fernando Tatis Jr. the new face of baseball, agreed Wednesday to a 14-year, $340 million contract extension with the San Diego Padres. In doing so, he obtained one of the biggest guarantees in the history of American sports and a marriage to a team where he quickly established himself as a star, sources familiar with the market told ESPN.

Tatis, 22, gets the third-largest contract in baseball history – and at a much younger age than Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, who signed their mega-contracts at age 27.

The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Tatis, whose impressive shortstop play hides his abilities at home plate, came to San Diego via a trade and is now the player around whom the Padres will build a team capable of winning a championship.

2 Connected

To maintain his style, Tatis broke through in the minor leagues after the Padres acquired him from the Chicago White Sox in a deal with aging starter James Shields. His talent in spring training was so evident in 2019 that San Diego used him as a shortstop on opening day, avoiding the usual gamble of sending top talent to the minor leagues to manipulate his service time and keep them on the team for the overtime season.

The mutual admiration between the team and Tatis was clear enough for the Padres to hope it wasn’t a mistake. And by striking a deal that kept him out of the game for nearly a decade and a half, during a season when he was 35, the Padres convinced Tatis that San Diego’s small market was his place.

Tatis had no intention of letting things get out of hand. There will be a total ban on trade, allowing it to veto any possible deal. The $340 million is the largest contract an actor has ever signed before going to arbitration – nearly $200 million more than Trout’s first contract extension. Trout’s second renewal set a national sports record with a $426.5 million guarantee, and Betts’ $392 million deal is now followed by Tatis’.

Tatis, along with Manny Machado, who plays third base next to him, is the Padres player with more than $300 million – and they join New York Yankees duo Jerritt Cole and Giancarlo Stanton as teammates with such spectacular contracts. Machado and Tatis are both represented by agent Dan Lozano.

Player Silver Year of signature
Mike Trout $426.5M 2019
Mookie Beds $365M 2020
Fernando Tatis Jr. $340M 2021
Bryce Harper. $330M 2019
Giancarlo Stanton. $325M 2014
Gerrit Cole $324M 2019
Manny Machado. $300M 2019
— ESPN statistics and information

Machado’s contract with San Diego through the 2019 season was a turning point for an organization that has positioned itself as the biggest threat to defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who play in the Padres’ division. San Diego thrived during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when Tatis took center stage after a dynamic rookie season ended by injury.

When he started, with his trademark dreadlocks dripping from a baseball helmet and a bat in his hand, Tatis was the best player of the first half of the season, an irrepressible combination of raw talent, finishing and excitement – the kind that even a casual fan can recognize.

His appearances in other commercials – for Major League Baseball and the merchandise he sold – showed that Tatis could stand out among other potential stars. The sport, looking for someone with broad appeal, found Tatis, who grew up in the Dominican Republic with his father, Fernando Tatis, a longtime major league soccer player, and his mother, Maria.

Tatis was not very popular when he signed with the White Sox at the age of 16. Athleticism, explosiveness, all the skills he has now – back then they were just tools. Maybe they’ll come, maybe they won’t.

San Diego saw something different – a player who grew, muscled and started looking for a role in his first year after signing. He grew an inch after the switch, then another, and when Tatis embarrassed the pitchers in Double-A, he looked like a future star.

To be so fast and not only finish fourth in the 2020 MVP voting, but also to guarantee the team $340 million says a lot about the Padres’ commitment to Tatis. They can keep him for four more seasons before he gets into Free Agency. Instead, they gave Tatis after he hit .277/.366/.571 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in 59 games, more than any other free agent ever got.

Negotiations between the parties intensified earlier this week and sources familiar with the talks expect an agreement to be reached. One of these sizes? That big? Well, when Tatis does something, he does it big.

frequently asked questions

How much is Fernando Tatis Jr.’s rookie card worth?

Among the best-selling so far: The Topps Heritage Superfractor 1/1 sold on eBay for $12,247 and the Topps Chrome Retro Autograph Superfractor fetched $10,000. Most of Tatis Jr.’s 2019 beginner cards are readily available, including his standard 2 topps series beginner cards and basic cards from other games.

What is the value of Fernando Tatis’s contract?

Current contract Fernando Tatis Jr. has signed a 14-year/$340,000,000 contract with the San Diego Padres that includes a $10,000,000 signing bonus, a $340,000,000 guarantee and an average annual salary of $24,285,714.

What is the duration of the contract with Fertis Tatis?

Fernando Tatis Jr. and the San Diego Padres have reached an agreement on a record 14-year deal, the club announced Monday. According to Kevin Asi of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the contract is worth $340 million.

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