‘This is home’: Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres make 14-year, $340 million deal official
MLB 

PEORIA, Ariz. — In this era of suspicion and skepticism, the San Diego Padres paraded an attribute Monday that has been lost in the baseball world.

Trust.

The Padres showed their faith in Fernando Tatis Jr. by officially signing him Monday to a 14-year, $340 million contract after playing just 143 games.

In return, Tatis showed the Padres how much he trusts them, committing for what could be the entirety of his playing career instead of opting for free agency down the road.

“This deal only happens because of the trust and belief in each other,’’ Padres executive chairman Peter Seidler told USA TODAY Sports. “He earned our trust, and we earned his. This was a fully and honest discussion with the player and [Padres front office] what’s best for both.

“The overall thinking was that it will be great for our organization, for our team, and for particularly our fans that this player, who is already the face of baseball, wants to be in San Diego and will be here for the next 14 years.’’

Tatis, of course, could have gone year-to-year, earned about $50 million in salary arbitration, entered the free-agent market at the age of 26, and perhaps become baseball’s first $500 million player. Instead, when the Padres originally proposed a 12-year contract last month, he said, “Why not my whole career?

He has entrusted the Padres with his professional life, believing they will try to win each and every year, refusing to be satisfied until they can topple the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers up the I-5 Freeway.

“People say it's too many years,’’ Tatis said. “I love what I’m seeing. I love what we’re doing. We’re going for it. Everybody’s feeling it.

“I want to build my legacy in San Diego.’’

Fernando Tatis Jr. made his big-league debut in 2019. (Photo: Orlando Ramirez, USA TODAY Sports)

Tatis, 22, has yet to even play a full season, but it’s not stopping him from dreaming big. There are statues of Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman outside Petco Park, and he envisions the day there’s one for him too.

“My dreams, the players I admired the most,’’ Tatis said, “stayed with one team, built a culture, and they became winners for the team. I’m over here trying to do the same.’’

The Padres certainly have put their money where their mouth is, previously signing first baseman Eric Hosmer to a $144 million contract in 2018 and third baseman Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract in 2019.

Seidler keeps hearing these contracts can’t possibly be sustainable in San Diego, the 27th-largest market in the country, but the way he views it, it’s good business. He refuses to say “small-market,’’ and thinks that the game will grow exponentially, making Tatis’ deal a relative bargain.

“I’m aware we are in a pandemic,’’ Seidler said. “I understand being in California is trickier than any other states getting fans in the stands. I can see how people who don’t know how we operate would question this at this time.

“But it’s not just about today, this month or this year. It’s how can we really change the future of this organization in regard to what it has been in the past. We are make decisions that our best for our organization and for our city.

“We talked through this, sliced it and diced it, and there was no hesitation in our mind.’’

Really, it was no different for Tatis. He had no interest in signing a contract that would buy out only a couple of years of free agency. He didn’t want to be a deal in which he would hit the market again when he was 30.

“As the term of the agreement eventually approached 14 years,’’ said Dan Lozano, Tatis’ agent, “it became apparent the Padres were making a significant commitment to Fernando and his family. He, in turn, agreed with Peter and A.J.’s vision on where this franchise is headed.

“And that is putting a winning team in the field for years to come.’’

Really, it came down to trust, what Tatis was seeing with his own eyes, what he personally experienced, validating his feelings for the Padres.

It was two years ago when he was a rookie in their spring training camp, never having played a single game. He was having a monster camp, and certainly deserved to make the team, but that has made little difference when it comes to business.

Teams manipulate service time all of the time, as evidenced by Seattle Mariners CEO Kevin Mather's now infamous 45-minute Rotary Club speech that embarrassed the organization and left his players seething. The Padres could have delayed the start of Tatis’ career by a couple of weeks, like most clubs would have done, simply to assure they would have control of his service time for an extra year.

The Padres refused to play the service-time game. They wanted their best team on the field. He was in their opening-day lineup, and never looked back.

This is why Tatis didn’t need any opt-out provisions in his contract. And this is why the Padres gave him a full no-trade clause.

He’s not going anywhere. It’s safe to buy a Tatis jersey without it becoming obsolete in a couple of years. Finally, Padres’ fans have something to believe in.

“We're in an era of a generation in sports where players move from team to team that's commonplace,’’ Preller said. “We've seen some great talents and some great players leave as they're entering their prime. We've seen some teams leave our city.

“That's what makes today's such a special day for the fans of San Diego. For the sports fans in San Diego, they really appreciate and understand the impact of Fernando's decision, wanting to be a part of the city and the organization for a long time.’’

Said Tatis: “For the city of San Diego, we’re here to stay’’

The way the Padres view it, they have an iconic player who could transcend baseball some day. 

“I believe he’s one of those special athletes and people that every year for the next 14 years,’’ Seidler said, “people will want to see. I grew up in the Magic Johnson era in LA, and this could be our Magic Johnson.’’

Now, here is Tatis, confident he can be the one who Padre fans will forever remember.

“I love this city,’’ he said. “I love the fans. I love the culture. I love the vibe.

“I'm all about winning. And I’m all about winning in San Diego.

“This is home.’’

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