The San Diego Padres Need to Lock Fernando Tatis Jr. Up Now

Fernando Tatis Jr
Fernando Tatis Jr., Wild Card Round - St Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres - Game Two | Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

The San Diego Padres and Fernando Tatis Jr. had a great season in 2020 and both sides want to work out a long-term extension. The Padres need to ensure that happens this offseason after what the 21-year-old shortstop has done on the field during his first two campaigns at the big league level.

Tatis has played 143 career regular season games, so basically one full season. His numbers over that time are pretty remarkable. He carries a .301 batting average, a .374 on-base percentage, and an OPS of .956. He's hit 39 home runs, racked up 98 RBI, 111 runs scored and 27 stolen bases in 38 attempts. Tatis boasts a career fWAR of 6.5 and developed into one of baseball's best defensive players in 2020. He's been incredible, especially when you consider he played the entire 2019 season at 20 years old.

Tatis is under team control through 2024 when he'll hit free agency as a 25-year-old. Simply put, the Padres can't let that happen. Teams across Major League Baseball have been locking up their young stars early over the past few seasons and San Diego needs to join the parade. The most recent comparison is the Atlanta Braves handing an eight-year, $100 million deal to Ronald Acuna Jr. in 2019. Tatis will almost certainly command far more in a long-term deal.

Reupping Tatis won't be cheap, but both he and his father have expressed admiration for San Diego and the Padres' organization. They want a long-term deal to stay with the team. The Padres will have to invest a big chunk of cash to make it happen but that's the price of having a star player on your team. San Diego should buy out the next four years of team control, then add at least six years onto the deal. A 10-year extension in the $150 to 200 million range should be the starting point. But that number will almost certainly go up.

A deal like the one proposed above could double Acuna's take and be easily justifiable for the Padres. Obviously, Tatis' team will want more so it's a jumping off point for talks that could go much higher. But there is no way San Diego can let another offseason pass without locking up the future of its franchise.

Tatis firmly established himself as the most exciting player in baseball this season. He's unlike anyone else in the game. The Padres hit the lottery when they acquired him from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for a rapidly decomposing James Shields back in 2016. He's a unicorn and they shouldn't leave his future in doubt any longer.

With a long-term core built around Tatis and Manny Machado, plus one of MLB's best farm systems, the Padres should be able to compete for years to come. Now all they have to do is pull the trigger on Tatis' extension.