In February of last year, shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. signed a massive contract with the San Diego Padres worth $340 million over 14 seasons. Tatís, just 23, immediately delivered a stellar 2021 season, batting .282/.364/.611 and hitting 42 homers with 97 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. He made his first All-Star team, won his second Silver Slugger award and finished third in MVP voting.
The Padres were looking forward to another solid year from their star, this one hopefully equating to playoff success. Unfortunately, Tatís will miss around half of this season due to a wrist injury and subsequent surgery. And that injury could have cost him the remaining $329 million of his contract.
Why? Tatís suffered the injury in December, and it was most likely due to a motorcycle accident in his native Dominican Republic. But because of the Major League Baseball lockout, teams and players were unable to communicate for 99 days. Tatís was unable to tell his team that he had been injured, which he said felt “stuck”, like when he slides too hard into a base. The pain resurfaced over the past month or so, and when Tatis was finally able to report to camp, team doctors learned the injury was more extensive than they had originally anticipated. It also doesn’t help that Tatís suffered a fall during training which hurt his wrist again.
Now, the Padres could seek to void Tatís’ contract and possibly recoup some of the money they owe him. However, they have no intention of doing so – for a number of reasons.
First, the team cannot necessarily prove that the wrist injury was a direct result of the motorcycle accident. Of course, that’s the most likely scenario, but that would just be speculation. Second, the Padres, who are in winning mode now, just committed 14 years and $340 million to a star player – one they believe can help them win a championship (or more). If they tried to get some or all of their money back, it would damage their relationship with Tatís, perhaps beyond repair. Future free agents could also see what happened and choose a destination other than the Padres.
Finally, the Padres just wouldn’t get a substantial amount of money back. It is difficult to cancel a contract entirely, and this injury should be minor enough that Tatís only missed a few months. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a horrible scenario. MLB Network Jon Morosi reported that Tatís had also pledged never to ride motorcycles again, understanding his importance to the team.
Both parties are handling this as well as expected. The Padres are grateful to their star player for getting the treatment he needs for his injury. Meanwhile, Tatís is grateful to have his (relative) health — and also $329 million to come.