PHOENIX — The news hit hard throughout baseball with players breathlessly texting one another, owners groaning and a handful of agents wildly celebrating.
Fernando Tatis Jr., who has played all of 143 games in his major-league career, has agreed to a stunning 14-year, $340 million contract with the San Diego Padres.
It’s the third-largest contract in baseball history behind only MVPs Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Mookie Betts of the Dodgers
“My reaction was this: ‘Wow!’’’ St. Louis Cardinals president John Mozeliak said.
Said Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker: “Someone sent a text, and I thought the team was sold.’’
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Padres teammate Eric Hosmer tweeted: “He deserves every penny and more! Like I said before and will say again, he’s the face of baseball….’Bout time somebody picks up dinner besides Manny [Machado].’’
So basically, the Padres are gambling their 22-year-old star will continue to be one of the greatest talents in baseball for the next four years and they can feel like they got a discount when he would have become a free agent.
“More power to him,’’ Baker said. “The one thing about him is that these guys [baseball owners] are the smartest businessmen in the America. They figured out how to recoup their money back from this situation.
“But, boy, it’s a lot though. I’m just hoping he doesn’t change, and the money doesn’t change him.’’
The Padres are convinced he’ll continue to thrive, proving that he not only is the face of the franchise, but all of baseball, showing that he’s worth every penny and more.
“Being around him, his work ethic, the drive to win,’’ Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “The easy thing to see with him is his talent, but you see his drive to win, his drive to improve. He’s looking at video. He’s working. …
“The way he plays the game with such a fun spirit, the way his teammates view him, the way he treats other people, all of those factors.’’
The Padres, of course, already are being scorned by several of their fellow owners. They are in a smaller market yet have committed more than $800 million alone to their infield, and are the only team in baseball history to sign two players for at least $300 million. They will have an opening-day payroll of at least $180 million, among the largest in baseball.
The way the Padres view it, they had no choice. It made no sense to give Tatis a six-year contract simply to buy out two years of free agency, and watch him hit free agency in his prime at 28. It made no sense for Tatis to sign a 10-year deal for knowing he’d be on the wrong side of 30 when finally eligible for free agency.
So the two sides figured that if they can agree on a massive deal, the longest in baseball history, Tatis would sacrifice a little money the next four years in lieu of arbitration where he likely would have earned at least $50 million, in return for a career-long guarantee.
The two sides made sure it would be a lifetime pact when the Padres gave him a full no-trade clause, and in exchange, Tatis waived any rights to an opt-out clause.
“I can’t be any more excited,’’ Tingler said. “There’s pure excitement here on a lot of fronts.’’
Also excited: the upcoming free-agent shortstop class of Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Javy Baez and Corey Seager.
And how happy are the folks in Atlanta knowing that Ronald Acuna’s eight-year, $100 million contract extension looks like pocket change?
But leave those thoughts to everyone to else.
The Padres got their man.
“I think he’s the right guy to market the sport,’’ Tingler said, “the right guy for the industry of baseball. The look, the energy, the drive to win, being young and talented and still wanting to grow.
“Overall, this is what baseball needs.”