What can the San Diego Padres do with Wil Myers? Here is a solution to the team’s problem.
The San Diego Padres’ tortured relationship with Wil Myers may have reached its nadir during the dickering between Boston, and San Diego centered around how much of his contract the Red Sox would have absorbed in a potential trade of Mookie Betts. Unfortunately, Betts seems to have ended up with the nemesis to the north, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Since general manager A.J. Preller traded Trea Turner for Myers in December 2014, the relationship has been strained. Turner’s early success in Washington D.C. and his ability to play shortstop (a gaping hole in the San Diego infield for years) put pressure on Myers, and he became the poster child for Preller’s early missteps.
After the latest humiliating turn of events for Myers, the Padres should pivot and make peace with him. Myers undoubtedly hasn’t forgotten being named the “Face of the Franchise” and then supplanted at first by Eric Hosmer and his $144 million contract in February of 2018. Nor will he easily forget being stuck at third base for 324.2 innings in 2018, a position he had not played regularly since 2012 when he was in the Kansas City Royals farm system.
Although an apology might be in order, the chances of that happening are slim to none. But the Padres would be wise to signal a change in their attitude toward the former Rookie of the Year (2013 for the Tampa Bay Rays). Any trade will require paying a large portion of his salary, so he might as well play for his pay rather than molder on the bench.
The Padres’ new manager Jayce Tingler, reported to be a great communicator, might be the perfect man for the job. Tingler should assure Myers that the team values his combination of speed and power and promise him playing time in the outfield and at first especially when the Padres face a left-handed pitcher. Since Eric Hosmer bats .231/.281/.321/.601 against lefties as compared to Myers .233/.365/.512/.877, that seems like a no brainer. Myers also would be an upgrade over Hosmer defensively at first. According to FanGraphs, in 2019, Hosmer rated -4 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). In 2016 and 17, when Myers played regularly at first, he rated at 9 DRS.
Newcomer Tommy Pham will probably get the majority of starts in left, despite his subpar defense (-11 Outs Above Average as opposed to Myers’ 2 OAA). But Myers would be a defensive upgrade over any of the players vying for right except Trent Grisham, who played just 51 games with the Brewers last year.
Myers certainly proved his worth in 2016 (when he was named the National League Player of the Month in June and made the All-Star team that July), and his success continued into 2017. In January of that year, the Padres signed Myers to an $80 million six-year extension. At the time, that was the most generous contract ever doled out by the San Diego Padres, but it has since been dwarfed by the contracts for Hosmer and Manny Machado.
In both those years, Myers primarily played first base (1294.0 innings in 2016, 1333.0 in 2017). While he’s not the second coming of Lou Gehrig, he earned a wRC+ of 114 and 107 those two years, compared to Hosmer’s wRC+ of 95 and wRC+ 91 in his time in San Diego.
Offensively Hosmer has not been much of an upgrade at first. In 2018 he batted .253/.322/.398/.309, in 2019 .265/.310/.425/.309. In those past two years, Myers has a batting line of .253/.318/.446/.328 and .239/.321/.418/.316. Neither obviously mimic Albert Pujols in his prime.
The Padres have plenty of reasons to want to move on from Myers. He hasn’t lived up to expectations, and he can be a bit of a space cadet who lacks intensity at times. Unless another team swoops in offering to pay most if not all of the $20 million yearly salary owed Myers, the Padres need to make amends and take advantage of his skillset. Encouraging rather than humiliating the man just might bring back the player he proved he could be early on in his tenure with the Padres.