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Fernando Tatis Jr., only 22, is already one of the highest-paid players in baseball. Photo via San Diego Padres on Twitter
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Sports Talk: Preller ensures Tatis stays put with Padres

The Padres made a cannon-ball splash by signing shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. to a historic deal. Just don’t forget the North County’s connection to a sea change transaction for a franchise better known for pinching pennies than minting fresh millionaires.

Tatis, 22, is certainly that and good for him and the legion of patient Padres fans in his corner. Since arriving in San Diego two years ago with an enticing concoction of skill and swagger, Tatis’ popularity is unequaled among those in brown and gold.

His dramatic way of conquering teams with his bat, arm, glove and legs is fun to watch. With an ever-present simile, he oozes with energy, seemingly making his teammates better and why wouldn’t they want to join the good times?

The real dynamite came Monday when his 14-year, $340 million deal was certified, making Tatis one of the game’s top-paid players thanks to the sport’s longest contract.

That translates into Padres boosters watching one of the majors’ top players in his prime.

Their joy about the deal was echoed by Tatis, who finished fourth in last year’s National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting.

“I love this city,” he said. “I love the fans. I love the culture. I love the vibe. And I’m all about winning, and I’m all about winning in San Diego.”

He’s staying put, in part, because of Padres general manager A.J. Preller’s handiwork. He’s the first piece of this North County link as the Encinitas resident hangs his Padres hat not far from Moonlight Beach.

Preller saw a star in Tatis and that dates to evaluating him as a string-bean minor leaguer at 17. When Preller shipped pitcher James Shields to the Chicago White Sox in 2016, Tatis was among those headed west.

Shields went to the South Side from his Rancho Santa Fe residence, another North County angle to Tatis’ blockbuster contract that has the baseball world buzzing.

Shields was a bust with the White Sox and he retired after the 2018 season.

Chicago sees what Tatis matured into and kicks itself with the veracity of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow for its lopsided transaction.

The Padres, meanwhile, kick off their most anticipated season in ages with Sunday’s spring training game in Arizona.

They do so with Tatis in the fold until 2034, despite him playing but 143 career games. The Padres are betting on his future, knowing its well past time to give their customers a sustainable winner.

Tatis’ value to the Padres isn’t strictly measured between the lines as his charisma and production make the middle infielder a perfect bilingual pitchman.

Tatis has national advertising pacts with BMW and Gatorade and he’s on Sony’s MLB The Show 21 cover. That gives the Padres more exposure and when you’re in the entertainment business, more is good.

Tatis makes baseball followers marvel. His real gift is luring in others with his acrobatic play, hip-shaking with his teammates and those prodigious bat-flips plopping an exclamation mark on his home runs.

It’s no longer a question of if the rebuilt Padres belong at the big-boy table. That includes sharing bread with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the defending world champions who are managed by Cardiff’s Dave Roberts.

Padres owner Pete Seidler knows the Dodgers well as his grandfather, Walter O’Malley, moved them to L.A. from Brooklyn. Now Seidler has the Padres going in the right direction led by his peppy shortstop, Fernardo Tatis Jr.

“We are not a small-market franchise,” Seidler declared. “There is nothing that we can’t do.”

There’s not much Tatis can’t do and for the next 14 seasons, he’ll prove it in San Diego.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports