It’s not at all my intention to tell you that the Yankees are trading for Fernando Tatis Jr. A move like that is inevitably filled with caveats. Shall I list them for you? The PED suspension, the troubles with his teammates, the 14-year contract, the Padres are better with him than without him, etc., etc.
On the likelihood of possibilities, I would rate the odds of a Tatis blockbuster lower than the Yankees meeting the Pirates’ rumored exorbitant price for Bryan Reynolds (who my colleague Andrés discussed earlier this offseason). However, here I am, mulling the possibility, and wondering if newly-extended GM Brian Cashman has a Giancarlo Stanton or Alex Rodríguez-type move in mind.
Since news emerged last week of the Padres’ rumored interest and mega offer to Trea Turner, I began thinking about their plans for their young, generationally talented shortstop. Turner may not have been the one to eventually sign with the Padres, as Xander Bogaerts instead took his talents to San Diego, but that was the beginning of the rumor mill for Tatis. Will he play left or right field? Is the Bogaerts deal a hedge to losing Juan Soto or Manny Machado, or do they Padres want to retain those two and instead move on from Tatis, whose relationship with the team has deteriorated since signing his monster contract? These are the questions spiraling through my head.
The thing is, even if the Padres did decide they are willing to move Tatis, what in the world is it going to take? When healthy, he is probably one of the best five players in the sport, capable of putting a team on his back like only a few others can. Tatis has a career 153 wRC+ since debuting in March 2019, and he earned a couple first-place votes while finishing third in 2021 NL MVP voting. The burgeoning star led the National League with 42 homers and 7.3 fWAR while batting .282/.364/.611 with a 157 wRC+ in 130 games.
But coming off multiple injuries, mistakes, and a PED suspension, how do the Padres and opposing teams evaluate Tatis’ value on the trade market? And I haven’t even yet mentioned the contract and opposing teams’ willingness to take on even a vast majority of the remaining 12 years and over $330 million. That’s why in the beginning of this piece, I briefly mentioned Stanton and A-Rod. Cashman and the Yankees have a history of bringing megadeals aboard, but the price paid for both was drastically different, as well as the circumstances.
I’m not trying to be mean here, but the Yankees paid next-to-nothing for Stanton. They simply were able to take him on because he had incredible leverage with Miami to go where he wanted, due to his no-trade clause. At the time, he had one of the most lucrative contracts, but as we look back today, he really doesn’t make that much compared to other players of his stature. (The Marlins even kicked in $30 million as part of the deal.)
Now with Rodríguez, the Yankees gave up the beloved young player Alfonso Soriano, but again, Texas had minimal leverage because the number of suitors for the record-breaking deal weren’t necessarily off the charts. The Rangers’ situation with A-Rod was already somewhat-strained with a near-trade to send the the Red Sox shot down by the MLBPA mere months before due to a proposed contract restructure. If a player like Rodríguez was dealt today, I’d imagine the cost would be similar to what the Padres paid up for Soto, both in terms of quality and quantity. Like I said earlier though, it’s hard to say where Tatis falls on the spectrum of the trades for superstars and their big contracts or even the Soto trade.
Tatis, too, has a full no-trade clause through 2028 and will have plenty of say at where he will go, and if I was to guess, that will pull down what opposing teams and executives like Brian Cashman are willing to offer. He could utilize the NTC to help determine his optimal landing spot, where he could remain at shortstop long-term and comfortably slide into a leadership position within the clubhouse. That said, Tatis’ fit in New York and the Yankees lineup may be worth paying the premium. He fits any team, any lineup, and any city. He is a franchise-altering type of icon.
I’m sure the cost would have to at least include two of the Yankees’ top five prospects, but beyond that, trying to evaluate this is like trying to put together the jigsaw puzzle of a cloudless blue sky. The public (including myself) and even potential Tatis suitors probably have no idea of Padres president AJ Preller’s strategy for the next year. The more sensical or stable move would be to keep all the players they have, but when was Preller ever predictable? Maybe the Bogaerts move isn’t a hedge, but rather, a more practical fit to ensure the team can stay elite if they decide to move on from Tatis. Or maybe, I’ve just created a galaxy brain scenario.
No matter which way you toss it up, I don’t think we can rule this out. To me, the money makes more sense than Carlos Correa, and Tatis is probably the more impactful player — as much as that hurts me to admit, given my infatuation for Correa’s abilities. And within the past few days, there have been rumors suggesting that Tatis, and not Correa, is the big move that Michael Kay was suggesting could happen a few days ago on his radio show.
However, these are all merely rumors at the moment. Unless it happens, or we get more in-depth details, this might just be a pipe dream. Then again, Cashman sometimes truly does have big moves like this up his sleeve when they make sense. At less than $24 million a year through 2034, Tatis’ contract might be a bargain if you consider his expected production. I’ve convinced myself of it; now, all we need is for Cashman to do the same and pry away the star from AJ Preller. It would be the move of the century for the Yankees.
Ah well. It was worth the thought experiment anyway!