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Is Fernando Tatis Jr. worth $340 million? For Padres, that’s an easy answer

The San Diego Padres and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. reportedly agreed to a 14-year, $340-millon contract extension on Wednesday — a move that prompts a big question that will be asked until 2034: Is it worth it?  

The short-term answer is almost always yes. The long-term answer depends on how the franchise builds around the superstar player for the next decade to compete for World Series championships. 

FAGAN: Baseball has never seen anything like the Tatis contract extension

San Diego locked up one of the game’s most exciting players — Tatis is hitting .301 with 39 homers and 98 RBIs through 149 major league games — through 2034. Tatis Jr. should pile up statistics, All-Star selections and stay in the hunt for the NL MVP award — he finished fourth in the voting in 2020 — on an annual basis.  

Will the Padres compete for championships? This is truly the first time San Diego fans can say, ”Yes.”

That is a big change in philosophy. Since 2010, the Padres have the second-lowest winning percentage in baseball at .461. The only team worse is the Marlins (.440). The rival Los Angeles Dodgers, of course, are first at .571. 

For the Tatis contract to be truly worth it, however, the Padres will have to win a World Series. That won’t be easy with the Dodgers in their way. 

Tatis’ extention is the third-largest in MLB history. Los Angeles signed Mookie Betts to the largest extension with a 12-year, $365-million deal before winning the World Series in 2020. Clayton Kershaw and Derek Jeter are the only other players in that top 10 who won a World Series after signing the extension.  

At minimum, San Diego declared that it is serious about building on an exciting 2020 season in which the franchise won its first playoff series since 1997, highlighted by Tatis’ bat flip in Game 2 of the NL Wild Card series against St. Louis. The Padres were eliminated by the Dodgers in the NLDS, however, and Los Angeles added 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer this offseason with a three-year, $102 million deal.  

With the deal, the Padres — who already traded for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell this offseason — have shown they are at least willing to compete with their rivals. Here’s a look at the players on both rosters who will make more than $10 million in adjusted salary in 2021, according to Spotrac.com.  

Dodgers vs. Padres: $10 million players in 2021

DODGERS ADJ SALARY (in millions) PADRES ADJ SALARY (in millions)
Trevor Bauer $31.3 Manny Machado $32
Clayton Kershaw $31 Wil Myers $23
Mookie Betts $22.5 Eric Hosmer $21
Kenley Jansen $20 Yu Darvish $19
A.J. Pollock $18 Blake Snell $11.1
Cody Bellinger $16.1 Fernando Tatis TBD
David Price $16
Corey Seager $13.75

The Padres still have one of the league’s top farm systems, too, so the message of the long-term deal with Tatis from San Diego owner Peter Seidler and general manager A.J. Preller is that the franchise is finally ready to be an every-year contender.  

The math on that history is even more staggering. The Padres have just 15 seasons with a winning record. Last year’s team had the highest single-season winning percentage in franchise history at .617 — albeit in a 60-game season. That broke a string of nine consecutive losing seasons and sent the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. 

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San Diego’s longest streak of consecutive winning seasons is four, which was set from 2004 to 2007 and led to back-to-back NLDS losses to the Cardinals in 2005 and 2006. The Padres made World Series appearances in 1984 and 1998, but those one-year wonders around franchise icon Tony Gwynn fizzled afterward. Gwynn is one of the best players ever who didn’t win a World Series. 

Tatis has been given the opportunity to be the franchise’s next icon, and he could take the next step. San Diego did what Cleveland didn’t do with Francisco Lindor — commit to the franchise player for the long term. Lindor led Cleveland to the postseason — including a World Series appearance in 2016 — after turning 21.  

The Padres will get those years from Tatis and many more. A short-term rivalry with the Dodgers for control of the NL West is coming, and that should lead to more captivating moments at Petco Park for the foreseeable future. San Diego’s willingness to spend is refreshing, too. There is always the chance that could backfire, especially with the lucrative deals given to other pieces around Tatis.  

Still, you can’t say the Padres aren’t trying — and fans of the franchise know they will be in the hunt with Tatis for years to come. San Diego has given that fan base hope for a World Series championship, and the ride is going to last until 2034 with one of the game’s best players. 

Is that worth it?  

The answer is always, “Yes.”

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