PEORIA, Ariz. – 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 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.”