An extension with star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. was reportedly one of the Padres’ offseason goals, though it doesn’t appear as if much progress has been made on that front. In a radio interview on the Ben & Woods morning show (Twitter link), Tatis said he and his representatives at the MVP Sports Group would “talk about it if the Padres come with something, but there’s nothing happening out there yet.”
While Padres general manager A.J. Preller was “definitely not looking to comment publicly” on the status of negotiations during his own Ben & Woods interview (Twitter link), Preller indicated that the club did want to “explore every option and possibility” in terms of a potential long-term agreement with Tatis. “We’ll sit down with him and his representatives when the time is right here, and kind of get a feel for where they’re at and see if there’s something there,” Preller said.
The fact that talks have seemingly yet to truly begin isn’t necessarily a sign that an extension couldn’t still happen before Opening Day or shortly into the season, as many teams don’t turn their attention to extension talks whatsoever until Spring Training. Of course, there also isn’t any immediate urgency to get a deal done since Tatis is under team control through the 2024 season — the shortstop has two remaining years as a pre-arbitration player, and then three seasons of arbitration eligibility.
Gaining some additional control (not to mention cost certainty) over Tatis would certainly be of interest to the Padres, as Tatis has one of the brightest futures of any player in the sport. The 21-year-old is coming off a rookie season that saw him hit .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs over 372 plate appearances. This was despite a pair of injured list stints due to a hamstring strain, and then a back strain that ended Tatis’ season in mid-August.
Should Tatis continue to perform at this high level over the next five years, he would be on track for free agency heading into his age-26 season and be in line for a monster payday on the open market, more than likely over the $400MM threshold. San Diego knows a thing or two about spending big on a 26-year-old free agent, having just dropped $300MM on Manny Machado (another MVP Sports Group client, of note) last winter. Locking up even one or two of Tatis’ free agent years as part of a long-term deal could end up being quite a bargain for the Padres, and by that same token, Tatis could be open to an extension that gives him financial security now, yet also doesn’t prevent him from free agency before his 30th birthday.
Some larger factors could also be at play, as The Athletic’s Dennis Lin (subscription required) raised the possibility that Tatis and other younger players might hold off on extensions “with the idea that the next collective bargaining agreement will change the structures of club control and free agency.” The current CBA expires in December 2021, so assuming a new labor agreement is in place prior to the start of the 2022 season, Tatis would still have three years remaining as a Padre and potentially a new range of contractual options to consider from a negotiating perspective. Perhaps as a nod to how a new CBA would impact the status quo, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reported yesterday that multiple teams were looking to lock up pre-arbitration players to extensions in the next few weeks.