The trade that sent then-minor leaguer Fernando Tatis Jr. from the White Sox to the Padres for a past-his-prime James Shields may go down as one of the most lopsided deals in history.
The 22-year-old phenom signed a 14-year, $340 million contract with San Diego — the longest contract in baseball history, and largest for a pre-arbitration player.
The shortstop has played in only 143 Major League games, but in that span, he has been 50% better than a league average hitter, according to advanced metrics, with a .301 average, .374 on-base percentage, and .582 slugging percentage to go with 39 homers and 27 steals.
Tatis Jr.’s deal is the third largest in Major League history.
- Mike Trout holds the record for the largest contract in MLB history, with the 12-year $426.5 million deal he signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2019.
- Mookie Betts committed to the Los Angeles Dodgers before ever playing a game for them with a 12-year $365 million pact. Betts signed the contract prior to the 2020 season after being traded by the Boston Red Sox.
- The seventh largest contract is held by the guy who plays a few steps to Tatis Jr.’s right. Third baseman Manny Machado signed a 10-year $300 million deal with the Padres in 2019.
Unlike Trout and Betts, who signed their deals with free agency approaching, Tatis Jr. was still under team control for four more seasons, including one at a minimal pre-arbitration salary. His negotiating position was far weaker than Machado’s, who signed his contract as a free agent when all 30 teams could bid for his services.
Tatis Jr. has quickly established himself as one of the most visible and exciting players in baseball. A few weeks ago he became the youngest player to grace the cover of video game “MLB The Show,” and Topps made his card No. 1 for its 2021 set.