The San Diego Padres are enjoying a productive 2020 season from Wil Myers. The outfielder found his mojo in 2020.
Almost from the beginning, the San Diego Padres and Wil Myers have had a rocky relationship.
Indeed, Myers’s name has come up regularly in trade rumors almost since the day he arrived in San Diego, especially after the team signed him to a six-year extension worth $83 million in 2017. Despite the rumors, despite the pandemic, despite the massive changes to the roster, Myers just may have finally found his mojo.
In February, the Padres tried to unload the $61 million left on Myers contract to the Boston Red Sox. Mookie Betts even came up in the conversation, but he ended up in Los Angeles with the Dodgers while Myers remained in San Diego. The Red Sox reportedly balked at absorbing three-quarters of his salary.
Myers had the misfortune of coming to the Padres in the trade that sent prospect and future star Trea Turner to the Washington Nationals. He’s suffered a variety of injuries since arriving. He did stay healthy in his first two full years (2016 and 2017) and played first base almost exclusively. After the 2016 season, the Padres rewarded him with a six-year, $83 million extension, the largest contract to that point in the team’s history, and proclaimed him the “Face of the Franchise.”
But in February 2018, the Padres pivoted and signed another first baseman, Eric Hosmer, to a $144 deal that dwarfed Myers’ salary. Since then, Myers has traveled around the diamond playing all outfield positions and third. Not a Gold Glover at any position, the experiments in center and especially at third flopped miserably.
But this year, Myers has played almost exclusively in right. The Padres, only other option currently on the roster is Jorge Mateo, who was traded for on June 30 for a player to be named later from the Oakland Athletics and promoted in mid-August. Mateo’s role has been as a speedy, athletic utility player.
By just about every measurement, Myers’ 2020 season has been his best since he debuted in 2013 with the Tampa Bay Rays. That year he batted .293/.354/.478/.831 and achieved his highest OPS+ of 131 until now. This year he’s maxed out at 165 OPS+ with a batting line of .298/.358/.626/.984, a vast improvement from last year’s .239/.321/.418/,739 with OPS+ 95.
Myers has lowered his strikeout percent from 34.2 to 24.8 and increased his hard-hit rate from 41.4 to 46.7. He currently ranks fifth in OPS at .984, sixth in home runs at 13, seventh in RBI with 35, and second in extra-base hits with 28.
On September 8th, Myers joined in the 2020s “Slam Diego” with two homers, including the Padres’ seventh grand slam of the year, in a 14-5 rout of the Colorado Rockies. He also went 2 for 4 with a home run, and RBI in the Padres’ only win against the Dodgers on the 14th.
The change in managers may have benefited Myers. Despite being a first time manager at the major league level, Jayce Tingler has demanded the best from his players and appears to have earned their respect. Perhaps Myers has risen to the challenge.
Myers lacks focus at times, which undoubtedly frustrated former manager Andy Green. Their relationship definitely suffered when a Myers, unaware that the discussion was streaming live, told former Padre Carlos Asuaje, “It’s so miserable, man. Andy could not be any worse than he is right now.”
When he realized his blunder, Myers immediately apologized to his manager, but the damage had been done. Under Tingler, Myers got a fresh start and an opportunity to prove himself finally.
Of the opponents left to play in a shortened season where every game carries more weight, the Padres will face the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, and San Francisco Giants. This year he’s batted .300/.417/.700/,1117, OPS+ 189 against the Mariners, who will play the Padres in San Diego rather than Seattle thanks to the dangerous air quality up north. Against the Giants, he’s batted .286/.318/.619/ .937 OPS+ 144.
Wil Myers might have finally found his mojo in the weirdest of all seasons and the first winning campaign in San Diego since 2010. His success at the plate may not prevent those trade rumors in the future. But he’s proven he’s an integral part of the team when it counts the most, in a year when the Padres will reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006.