Padres, Fernando Tatis Jr. sign 14-year 'statue contract'

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2020, file photo, San Diego Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr. tosses his bat after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning of Game 2 of the team's National League wild-card baseball series against the St. Louis Cardinals in San Diego. Tatis Jr. has yet to take a ground ball or swing a bat at spring training and he i already the talk of the Padres’ clubhouse. The electrifying shortstop and the Padres have agreed to a $340 million, 14-year deal, giving San Diego’s camp even more buzz than it already had after the team made a number of high-profile offseason moves. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

SAN DIEGO — In discussing options for a long-term deal with electrifying young shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., the San Diego Padres brought up the concept of “a statue contract.”

As in, if the kid is as good as Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman were, maybe in 15 or 20 years there will be a statue of “El Niño” alongside those Padres greats in a grassy area just beyond Petco Park.

The options were year-to-year, a multi-year deal that bought out a year or two of Tatis’ free agency or a contract in which Tatis was with the Padres for likely the rest of his career.

“In typical Tati fashion, his only real comment was, ‘Why not my whole career?’” general manager A.J. Preller said Monday in announcing the two sides had finalized Tatis’ $340 million, 14-year contract, the longest in baseball history.

“He wanted to be one of those very unique players that plays his career in one spot,” Preller said. “He loves the franchise, he loves the city, he loves his teammates and he talked a lot about really wanting to get on the path of that statue contract.”

Said Tatis: “I want the statue on one team. I want to be able to stay on one team and build my legacy over here in San Diego.”

If Tatis and the Padres are correct, the big decision will be which version of “El Niño” the statue shows: the one making slick plays at shortstop, the one with a “Matrix” type move to avoid being tagged out at first base or the one with the epic bat flip after homering for the second time in a playoff game?

“I’m going to put those numbers first and then we can discuss it,” Tatis said with a laugh during a videoconference from spring training in Peoria, Arizona. “I don’t know. Maybe we can have three statues in different ways. We will see what happens.”

Tatis, 22, had been eligible for salary arbitration after this season and for free agency after the 2024 season.

A son of former big league infielder Fernando Tatis, he has played in only 143 games during two seasons, including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, yet has quickly become one of the faces of baseball.

He stands out because of his flair, easy smile, blond dreadlocks flowing from under his cap and his dance moves in the dugout after hitting home runs.

Most importantly to the Padres, Tatis has made baseball fun again in San Diego after years of futility. He helped San Diego end a 13-year playoff drought in 2020 and win a wild-card series against the St. Louis Cardinals before the Padres were swept by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

“I’m just the same kid on the field. Nothing’s going to change,” he said. “I’m playing the game I love. And I feel when you do the things with passion and with love, I feel like it’s going to reward you. And I feel like when people ask me how I’m going to play this game, I’m just going to be the same kid every single time.”

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