Fernando Tatis Jr. will be on the San Diego Padres Opening Day roster. The Padres made that shocking decision Tuesday night against their long-term financial interests. But, while it may not have been smart from a team-control perspective, it was the the right thing to do, both for Tatis and the fans.
If the Padres had left Tatis in the minors for a few weeks, they would have gained an extra year of control over his future. Instead, they bucked the trend of “service time manipulation” and brought their top prospect to the big leagues the minute he was ready.
Tatis makes the Padres better. He’s arguably baseball’s best prospect, a five-tool shortstop who will be a difference-maker from Day One. The kid worked incredibly hard this winter and earned his spot on the big league roster this spring. Rather than attempt to massage the rules to their favor, the Padres just went out and did the right thing.
In 2015, the Chicago Cubs opted to keep Kris Bryant down in the minors out of spring training solely to earn another year of club control. It caused a controversy, with the MLBPA claiming it was “a bad day for baseball.” Bryant was called up a few weeks later.
Sometimes the smart thing isn’t the best thing.
Tatis will be 20-years, 85-days old on Opening Day. But he has been phenomenal and deserves to be in the big leagues. This spring he hit .265 with two home runs, four RBI and an OPS of .835 in 19 games. He did all of that while playing stellar defense at shortstop.
In 88 games at Double-A in 2018, Tatis hit .286 with 16 home runs, 43 RBIs and an OPS of .862. His season was cut short due to a thumb injury, but he was excellent during the Dominican Winter League, earning MVP honors during the round-robin portion of the playoffs. He went on to lead his hometown team, Estrellas Orientales, to their first title since 1968.
Oh, and he busted out this Hall of Fame-level bat flip after hitting a game-winning home run:
The Padres saw what Tatis could do, and just like the Manny Machado signing, they imagined watching him at Petco Park in front of packed stands. The visual was too perfect to pass up.
San Diego sports fans needed a win after years of losing. The Padres handed the Friar Faithful a huge victory by bringing Tatis to the big leagues for Opening Day.
The Padres did the right thing by rewarding Tatis with a spot in the big leagues the moment he was ready.