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Fernando Tatis Jr. cites legacy as reason for 14-year deal with San Diego Padres

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SAN DIEGO — In discussing options for a long-term deal with electrifying young shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., the San Diego Padres brought up the concept of “a statue contract.”

As in, if the kid is as good as Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman were, maybe in 15 or 20 years there will be a statue of “El Niño” alongside those Padres greats in a grassy area just beyond Petco Park.

The options were year-to-year, a multiyear deal that bought out a year or two of Tatis’ free agency or a contract in which Tatis was with the Padres for likely the rest of his career.

“In typical Tati fashion, his only real comment was, ‘Why not my whole career?'” general manager A.J. Preller said Monday in announcing the two sides had finalized Tatis’ $340 million, 14-year contract, the longest in baseball history.

“He wanted to be one of those very unique players that plays his career in one spot,” Preller said. “He loves the franchise, he loves the city, he loves his teammates and he talked a lot about really wanting to get on the path of that statue contract.”

Said Tatis: “I want the statue on one team. I want to be able to stay on one team and build my legacy over here in San Diego.”

If Tatis and the Padres are correct, the big decision will be which version of “El Niño” the statue shows: the one one making slick plays at shortstop, the one with a “Matrix”-type move to avoid being tagged out at first base or the one with the epic bat flip after homering for the second time in a playoff game?

“I’m going to put those numbers first and then we can discuss it,” Tatis said with a laugh during a videoconference from spring training in Peoria, Arizona. “I don’t know. Maybe we can have three statues in different ways. We will see what happens.”

Tatis, 22, had been eligible for salary arbitration after this season and for free agency after the 2024 season.

A son of former big league infielder Fernando Tatis, he has played in only 143 games during two seasons, including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, yet has quickly become one of the faces of baseball.

He stands out because of his flair, easy smile, blond dreadlocks flowing from under his cap and his dance moves in the dugout after hitting home runs.

Most importantly to the Padres, Tatis has made baseball fun again in San Diego after years of futility. 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.

“I’m just the same kid on the field. Nothing’s going to change,” he said. “I’m playing the game I love. And I feel when you do the things with passion and with love, I feel like it’s going to reward you. And I feel like when people ask me how I’m going to play this game, I’m just going to be the same kid every single time.”

Tatis 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.”

“He has a tremendous respect for the game of baseball. A lot was made last year, young players changing the game of baseball,” Preller said. “What results in success, it doesn’t really change from era to era. Some of the styles change, maybe some of the skills change at times, but he respects greatness, he respects the people that have come before him. A lot of that credit goes to his family.”

Tatis has hit .301 with 39 home runs, 98 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 143 games.

San Diego promoted Tatis to the majors on opening day of 2019, forgoing the chance to delay his free agency by waiting a few weeks — a reality of the game experienced by other young stars like Kris Bryant with the Chicago Cubs and Bryce Harper with the Washington Nationals.

The length of Tatis’ contract exceeds the $325 million, 13-year agreement in November 2014 between Miami and Giancarlo Stanton, who was traded to the New York Yankees in December 2017, and the $330 million, 13-year contract ahead of the 2019 season between Harper and Philadelphia.

Baseball’s biggest deal by dollars remains Mike Trout’s $426.5 million, 12-year contract signed with the Angels in March 2019. Tatis’ deal is the third-largest, also trailing Mookie Betts‘ $365 million, 12-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers that starts this season.

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Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman will be late arrival to camp after birth of twin boys

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NL MVP Freddie Freeman won’t report with the Atlanta Braves‘ position players on Tuesday following the birth of his twin sons.

Manager Brian Snitker said Monday he supports Freeman arriving later in the week.

Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, on Sunday used their Twitter accounts to announce the addition of twin sons by posting “Officially a family of five.” Their first son, Charlie, was born in 2016. The Freemans did not immediately reveal names of their twins.

Due to coronavirus protocols in place at all Major League Baseball spring training sites, including the Braves’ facility in North Port, Florida, Snitker said Freeman will have to spend “a couple days” away from his teammates after reporting. Other position players already have had their intake testing so they’ll be cleared for the first full-squad workout on Tuesday.

Even so, Snitker said it was “no big deal at all” for Freeman to arrive later in the week.

“Actually, I’ll be honest with you, he doesn’t need to be here,” Snitker said. “I’m kind of glad he’s doing what he’s doing right now.”

Snitker noted Freeman normally swings well at the start of spring training “and then gets bored for 10 days.”

Even after battling high fever following a COVID-19 diagnosis before the delayed start of the 2020 season, Freeman returned to post dominant numbers. He was a runaway winner of the NL MVP award, landing 28 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Freeman hit .341 with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and a NL-leading 23 doubles in the regular season. The Braves finished one win shy of the World Series when they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

Freeman, 31, is entering the final year of a $135 million, eight-year contract. Even in a lineup that includes Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, Freeman is the Braves’ leader and most established hitter.

In 2019, Freeman hit .295 and set career highs with 38 homers and 121 RBIs. He has finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting in five seasons, including the past three. He was fourth in the voting in 2018, when he won is first Gold Glove at first base and hit .309.

He has a .295 career average with 240 homers in 11 seasons.



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Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman will be late arrival to camp after birth of twin boys

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NL MVP Freddie Freeman won’t report with the Atlanta Braves‘ position players on Tuesday following the birth of his twin sons.

Manager Brian Snitker said Monday he supports Freeman arriving later in the week.

Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, on Sunday used their Twitter accounts to announce the addition of twin sons by posting “Officially a family of five.” Their first son, Charlie, was born in 2016. The Freemans did not immediately reveal names of their twins.

Due to coronavirus protocols in place at all Major League Baseball spring training sites, including the Braves’ facility in North Port, Florida, Snitker said Freeman will have to spend “a couple days” away from his teammates after reporting. Other position players already have had their intake testing so they’ll be cleared for the first full-squad workout on Tuesday.

Even so, Snitker said it was “no big deal at all” for Freeman to arrive later in the week.

“Actually, I’ll be honest with you, he doesn’t need to be here,” Snitker said. “I’m kind of glad he’s doing what he’s doing right now.”

Snitker noted Freeman normally swings well at the start of spring training “and then gets bored for 10 days.”

Even after battling high fever following a COVID-19 diagnosis before the delayed start of the 2020 season, Freeman returned to post dominant numbers. He was a runaway winner of the NL MVP award, landing 28 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Freeman hit .341 with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and a NL-leading 23 doubles in the regular season. The Braves finished one win shy of the World Series when they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

Freeman, 31, is entering the final year of a $135 million, eight-year contract. Even in a lineup that includes Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, Freeman is the Braves’ leader and most established hitter.

In 2019, Freeman hit .295 and set career highs with 38 homers and 121 RBIs. He has finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting in five seasons, including the past three. He was fourth in the voting in 2018, when he won is first Gold Glove at first base and hit .309.

He has a .295 career average with 240 homers in 11 seasons.



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Seattle Mariners president/CEO Kevin Mather resigns after comments

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Seattle Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather resigned Monday after comments he made to a Rotary Club earlier this month surfaced and received widespread backlash Sunday.

Mariners chairman and managing partner John Stanton said in a statement Monday that he “was extremely disappointed” when he learned of Mather’s comments, which were made to a Bellevue, Washington, Rotary Club on Feb. 5 and were posted online over the weekend.

“His comments were inappropriate and do not represent our organization’s feelings about our players, staff, and fans,” Stanton said. “There is no excuse for what was said, and I won’t try to make one. I offer my sincere apology on behalf of the club and my partners to our players and fans. We must be, and do, better. We have a lot of work to do to make amends, and that work is already underway.”

Stanton said he will act as the team’s president and CEO until Mather’s replacement is hired. Mather has been with the team since 1996. He was promoted to his current role in November 2017.

Mather apologized for his comments on Sunday night.

The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement Monday calling the video “highly disturbing.”

“The Club’s video presentation is a highly disturbing yet critically important window into how Players are genuinely viewed by management. Not just because of what was said, but also because it represents an unfiltered look into Club thinking,” the statement read. “It is offensive, and it is not surprising that fans and others around the game are offended as well. Players remain committed to confronting these issues at the bargaining table and elsewhere.”

In his remarks to the Rotary Club, Mather spoke about former Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma — who was hired in January as a special assignment coach with the club — and his need for a translator and his English skills.

“For instance, we just rehired Iwakuma; he was a pitcher with us for a number of years. Wonderful human being; his English was terrible,” Mather said. “He wanted to get back into the game; he came to us. We quite frankly want him as our Asian scout/interpreter, what’s going on with the Japanese league. He’s coming to spring training.

“And I’m going to say, I’m tired of paying his interpreter. When he was a player, we’d pay Iwakuma ‘X,’ but we’d also have to pay $75,000 a year to have an interpreter with him. His English suddenly got better. His English got better when we told him that.”

Speaking about minor league outfielder Julio Rodriguez, who is ranked by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel as the No. 9 overall prospect in MLB, Mather said: “Julio Rodriguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined. He is loud. His English is not tremendous.”

Mather addressed the team’s payroll and watching the financial bottom line. He said he believed top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert likely will not start the season with the team as a way to manipulate their major league service time and keep them under club control longer.

Mather said the club attempted to sign Kelenic to a long-term contract and was rebuffed in its efforts.

Mather also said longtime third baseman Kyle Seager would be a future Mariners Hall of Famer but also was “overpaid.” Seager is in the final year of his contract with the Mariners and will be Seattle’s highest-paid player at $18 million. His contract includes a club option for 2022.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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