Fernando Tatis’ 14-year, $340M deal finalized by Padres

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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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 Nino” 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 Nino” the statue shows: the one 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.”

Tatis has dared to challenge old-school norms. After hitting his second home run in an 11-9 win in Game 2 of the wild-card series against the Cardinals, he unleashed an emphatic bat flip. A photo of Tatis in that moment is on the cover of the video game MLB The Show ’21.

In August, Tatis caused a stir when he hit a grand slam on a 3-0 count with the Padres leading the Texas Rangers by seven runs. The furor died down and the Padres became the first team in MLB history to hit grand slams in four straight games and five in six games, leading to the nickname “Slam Diego.”

“He has a tremendous respect for the game of baseball. A lot was made last year, young players changing the game of baseball,” Preller said. “What results in success, it doesn’t really change from era to era. Some of the styles change, maybe some of the skills change at times, but he respects greatness, he respects the people that have come before him. A lot of that credit goes to his family.”

Tatis has hit .301 with 39 home runs, 98 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 143 games.

San Diego promoted Tatis to the majors on opening day of 2019, forgoing the chance to delay his free agency by waiting a few weeks – a reality of the game experienced by other young stars like Kris Bryant with the Chicago Cubs and Bryce Harper with the Washington Nationals.

The length of Tatis’ contract exceeds the $325 million, 13-year agreement in November 2014 between Miami and Giancarlo Stanton, who was traded to the New York Yankees in December 2017, and the $330 million, 13-year contract ahead of the 2019 season between Harper and Philadelphia.

A company called Big League Advance will receive a portion of Tatis’ contract during the next 14 years as repayment of an advance he received four years ago. According to The Athletic, Tatis used the money to upgrade his training regimen in the U.S. and his offseason practice field in his native Dominican Republic. It is not known how big an advance he received, but it could cost him millions of dollars.

“It was really helpful, but it was a decision for me and my family,” Tatis said Monday, declining to provide further details.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Free-agent ace Jacob deGrom and the Texas Rangers agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner leaves the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

Texas announced the signing Friday night after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

“We are thrilled that Jacob deGrom has decided to become a Texas Ranger,” executive vice president and general manager Chris Young said in a statement. “Over a number of seasons, Jacob has been a standout major league pitcher, and he gives us a dominant performer at the top of our rotation. One of our primary goals this offseason is to strengthen our starting pitching, and we are adding one of the best.”

Texas went 68-94 last season and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco, as its new manager. The Rangers’ six straight losing seasons are their worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

This latest blockbuster move comes just before baseball’s winter meetings, which begin early next week in San Diego. The Rangers said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson University, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his professional career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons.

New York won 101 regular-season games last season, second-most in franchise history, but was caught by NL East champion Atlanta down the stretch and settled for a wild card.

After declining his 2023 option, ending his contract with the Mets at $107 million over four years, deGrom rejected a $19.65 million qualifying offer in November, so New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation. Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.