In February of last year, shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. signed a massive deal with the San Diego Padres worth $340 million over 14 seasons. Tatís, who's only 23 years old, immediately delivered a stellar 2021 season, batting .282/.364/.611 and hitting 42 home runs with 97 RBI and 25 stolen bases. He made his first All-Star team, won his second Silver Slugger award, and was third place in MVP voting.
The Padres were looking forward to another strong year from their star, with this one hopefully equating to postseason success. Unfortunately, Tatís will miss about half this season thanks to a wrist injury and subsequent surgery. And that injury could have cost him the remaining $329 million on his contract.
Why? Tatís suffered the injury in December, and it was very likely due to a motorcycle accident in his native Dominican Republic. But because of Major League Baseball's lockout, teams and players couldn't communicate for 99 days. Tatís was unable to tell his team he had been dealing with an injury, which he explained felt "jammed," similar to when he slides too hard into a base. The pain resurfaced in the past month or so, and when Tatis was finally able to report to camp, team doctors learned the injury was more significant than they initially expected. It also doesn't help that Tatís experienced a fall during training that further hurt his wrist.
Now, the Padres could look to void Tatís's contract and possibly recoup some of the money they owe him. They have no plans to do so, though — for a number of reasons.
First, the team can't necessarily prove the wrist injury is a direct result of the motorcycle accident. Sure, it's the most likely scenario, but that would merely be speculation. Second, the Padres, who are in win-now mode, just committed 14 years and $340 million to a star player — one they believe can help them win a championship (or several). If they tried to take back some or all of their money, it would damage their relationship with Tatís, perhaps beyond repair. Future free agents might also see what happened and choose another destination besides the Padres.
Finally, the Padres simply wouldn't recoup a substantial amount of money. It's hard to entirely void a contract, and this injury should be minor enough that Tatís will only miss a few months. In the grand scheme of things, that's not a horrible scenario. MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Tatís also pledged to never ride motorcycles again, understanding his importance to the team.
Both sides are handling this as well as can be expected. The Padres are grateful for their star player getting the treatment he needs for his injury. Meanwhile, Tatís is thankful he has his (relative) health — and also $329 million coming his way.