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Saturday June 19th, 2021 11:28PM

'Holy smokes': Padres rave about Tatis Jr.'s big contract

By The Associated Press
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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Fernando Tatis Jr. has yet to take a ground ball or swing a bat at spring training and he’s already the talk of the San Diego Padres’ clubhouse.

The electrifying shortstop and the Padres agreed Wednesday to a $340 million, 14-year deal, according to two people familiar with the situation, giving San Diego’s camp even more buzz than it already had after the team made a number of high-profile offseason moves.

“There’s great excitement around here,” manager Jayce Tingler said on a videoconference Thursday from Peoria, Arizona.

“Holy smokes, that’s a lot of money,” newly signed reliever Mark Melancon said. “Just playing across from him, his energy is awesome. You can see how it energizes the team. From everything I’ve heard, he’s a great guy, he’s got his head on his shoulders. That’s why the front office has stepped up and come to terms with him.”

The two people confirmed details to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been announced.

It will be the longest contract signed in MLB history. Giancarlo Stanton, now with the New York Yankees, signed a 13-year, $325 million deal with Miami in 2015. Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with Philadelphia in 2019. The biggest deal by dollars remains Mike Trout’s $426.5 million, 12-year contract signed with the Angels in 2019. Tatis’ deal will be the third-largest.

Tatis began the intake process Thursday. It will take 24 to 48 hours before he's cleared and can enter the complex, and then he must take his physical.

Tingler couldn’t talk about the contract, but had plenty to say about Tatis, who at 22 has quickly become one of the faces of MLB.

“I think the easiest thing to see with him is his talent,” Tingler said. “That’s on all aspects — the way he runs, the way he moves, the way he can hit for power, hit all directions. The work ethic, seeing him consistently improve in a lot of areas of the game, certainly defensively. The way he plays the game with such a fun spirit. The way his teammates view him, the way he treats other people. All those factors.”

Tatis has bloomed into a superstar in less than two full seasons with the Padres, hitting .301 with 39 home runs, 98 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 143 games. He helped San Diego end a 13-year playoff drought in 2020 and win a wild-card series against the St. Louis Cardinals before the Padres were swept by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

He stands out because of his flair, easy smile, blond dreadlocks flowing from under his cap, a uniform dirtied by his hard-charging play and his dance moves in the dugout after hitting home runs.

Tatis was literally raised in the game at the feet of his father, who played 11 seasons in the big leagues. Tatis is from San Pedro de Macrois, Dominican Republic, known as The Cradle of Shortstops.

He has dared to challenge old-school norms. After hitting his second home run in an 11-9 win in Game 2 of the wild-card series against the Cardinals, he unleashed an emphatic bat flip. A photo of Tatis in that moment is on the cover of the video game MLB The Show ’21.

In August, Tatis caused a stir when he hit a grand slam on a 3-0 count with the Padres leading the Texas Rangers by seven runs. The furor died down and the Padres became the first team in MLB history to hit grand slams in four straight games and five in six games, leading to the nickname “Slam Diego.”

That moment helped earn Tatis a commercial for Gatorade product BOLT24. “Being a rule-breaker is not cool ... yes it is,” he says with a laugh in the ad.

Tatis already had endorsement deals with adidas and BMW.

“I think it’s great for him and being able to, whether it’s Gatorade or adidas, he’s the right guy to market the sport, the right guy for just the industry of baseball,” Tingler said. “We need to market our guys and there are certainly guys in the league who are great. I think he is one of them with the look, the energy, the play, the drive to win, being young and talented and still wanting to grow."

This is the third big contract given by the Padres over the last four seasons. They gave slugger Manny Machado a $300 million, 10-year deal before the 2019 season and signed first baseman Eric Hosmer to a $144 million, eight-year deal in 2018.

NOTES: Melancon agreed to a one-year deal, with a mutual option for 2022. He made 23 relief appearances for the Atlanta Braves in 2020, going 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA and 11 saves. ... The Padres also signed righty reliever Keone Kela to a one-year deal Thursday. RHP Trey Wingenter was placed on the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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