The San Diego Padres are making a long play with their exciting shortstop.
Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Padres formalized a 14-year, $340 million contract on Monday, securing the team’s rising star to the franchise through the prime of his career.
Tatis, 22, finished fourth in the National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting last year when hitting .277 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs. He helped lead the Padres to their first playoff appearance since 2006.
While Tatis has played in just 143 career games, the Padres weren’t shy about locking him down. San Diego emphasized its commitment for him to be the face of the club with the longest contract in baseball.
Much like Padres icon Tony Gwynn spent his 20-year career with the Padres, Tatis would like to follow suit.
“I’ve been thinking about that since I got to the big leagues,’’ Tatis told reporters. “The players that I admire the most, they stay with one team. They build a culture and become winners with the team that gave them the chance.’’
Tatis’ contract is the third-highest in the majors, trailing only two Los Angeles players: the Angels’ Mike Trout ($426 million) and the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts ($365M).
The Tatis transaction continues a spending spree for the Padres, with the club establishing team records for individual contracts in four of its past five offseasons.
Third baseman Manny Machado arrived two years via a 10-year, $300 million deal, which means the infield’s left side will cost team owner Peter Seidler $640 million.
Remember those small-market blues the Padres once sung? They’ve been swept aside like the recent winds busting through Southern California.
“We’re the eighth-largest city in the nation,’’ Seidler said. “There’s nothing we can’t do.’’
Tatis’ potential worth extends past the field. He’s scored national advertising deals with BMW and Gatorade, among others, to give the Padres exposure through his engaging personality to pitch products.
He’s the first Padre to land on the cover of Sony’s MLB The Show 21 video game.
Seidler, who is former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley’s nephew, grew up when Magic Johnson was orchestrating “Showtime” for the Lakers. His vision is of Tatis having a similar impact, with his considerable charisma and skills engaging a fresh legion of fans.
Tatis, a Dominican Republic native, is bilingual. With San Diego sharing an international border with Mexico, that also expands his reach.
Tatis’ brand is playing daring baseball, fueled by the ability to hit for power and average. He keenly fields his position, has a plus arm and runs the bases with a flair.
He’s also not afraid to reveal his emotions, which brings about bat flips and him dancing in the dugout after touring the bases.
San Diego sports fans, many smarting since the Chargers fled for L.A. after the 2016 season, have wrapped their arms around Tatis. The feeling is mutual.
“The City of San Diego embraced me from Day 1,’’ Tatis said. “I felt the love…it was 적 right away. I said, ‘This is home, this is home.’’’
And it will be for a long, long time.