Baseball’s last big payday came on Wednesday, this time in the form of Fernando Tatis Jr. 14-year extension of $ 340 million with the San Diego Padres.
The deal is the longest in baseball history, the third largest in terms of total funds committed, and will keep a potential face of the MLB in San Diego for the long term. It’s a transformative deal for the Padres and the League as a whole. However, Tatis won’t be able to enjoy as much of it as you’d expect.
The reason: A deal he made when he was 19, more than a year before his MLB debut.
What is Big League Advance and why is it included in Fernando Tatis’ contract?
How The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal recorded on Thursday, part of Tatis’ deal with the Padres will go to Big League Advance, a company with a very specific, and some would say predatory, business model.
In essence, Big League Advance is an investment company, but instead of investing in companies and real estate, it invests in players. The company is reaching out to smaller leagues by offering them a one-time payment in exchange for a small but significant cut in their earnings as MLB players.
If the minor league’s career doesn’t work out and he never makes it to the lucrative MLB Free Agency, that’s a good deal for the player. However, if that player becomes, say, an MVP candidate and signs one of the biggest contracts in baseball history, that is a bonanza for Big League Advance.
The latter case is exactly what will happen in the case of Tatis, who reportedly signed a deal with Big League Advance in the 2017-18 off-season. The exact amount Tatis will donate to Big League Advance is unknown, but the company’s website offers the following salary structure as an example:
For example, Big League Advance may offer a player $ 50,000 for every 1% of their future professional income. If a player wants to sign a deal for 5% they will get $ 250,000, or if they want to sign a deal for 10% they will get 500,000 US dollars. While our offer amounts are non-negotiable, the percentage that the player wants to give up is up to the player.
So if Tatis took the largest payment, it would pay Big League Advance $ 34 million over 14 years. Not every player Big League Advance buys into will make it to the majors, but the opportunity to attract a breakout player like Tatis seems worth it.
Tatis signed the deal for a reason
Obviously, not many people will feel guilty about Tatis over this deal. Even after Big League Advance and its agents are cut, he will still have enough money to live in luxury for the rest of his life. At the same time, however, it can be worth discussing how a player who seems to have been known for greatness for years would sign a deal that could cost them up to $ 34 million.
For starters, the timing of Tatis’ Big League Advance deal is important. During the 2017-18 offseason, Tatis had just finished a season spent mostly in Class A ball, as well as 14 double A games. He was still a real prospect – MLB pipeline ranked him # 4 on the San Diego system and # 52 overall – but it wasn’t Fernando Tatis Jr., Destroyers of baseballs and flippers of bats.
At the time, Tatis was mostly known for being the return of the Padres in the James Shields trade, which has since become notorious among Chicago White Sox fans.
More importantly, Tatis was still earning a minor league salary that was and remains outrageously low for the entry-level staff of the MLB player base. The salary scale for Class A players in 2017 was $ 1,300 a month, and only for months during the season. Tatis received a $ 700,000 new signing bonus at the White Sox in 2015 as an international contestant, but the work to become an elite player is expensive, and Tatis told Rosenthal that his upfront payment for the Big League was used for this :
[Tatis] said after signing with BLA that he wanted to hire a personal trainer, eat better food and get a better apartment. He used the money to improve not only his training program in the US, but also his off-season practice field in his native Dominican Republic.
It may also be worth wondering why the padres didn’t pay for the exercise and nutrition he wanted, but let’s face it, we all know the answer. Become MLB teams fight tooth and nail to avoid giving their weakest employees more than the bare minimum, and giving a guy like Tatis the resources he wants would have been a concession, not an investment.
But here too, Tatis will hardly suffer the MLB Players Association will not be happy to see this game. Tatis knew this was a possibility and told Rosenthal that he would only see it as a negligible price to pay if his career got off the ground:
“If I’m a successful player and I make a lot of money, I won’t care about giving that money away,” he said. “It won’t work if I make that much money.”
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