The Case Against an Extension
Yes, Myers has spent most of 2016 blowing away both doubters and the competition. And yes, he is still just 25 years old, with less than 400 big league games under his belt.
But that shouldn’t exclusively be cause for celebration. 400 games in four big league seasons really isn’t much to write home about, and such a low number displays a propensity for injury that can’t be ignored when discussing a possible long-term extension. Ultimately, it is this struggle to stay on the field, especially when coupled with frustrating bouts of underperformance, that make me wary of offering such an extension to a player like Myers…yet.
Under his current contract, Myers isn’t set to enter the free agent market until after the 2019 season. This means that, for an extension to actually accomplish anything in terms of player retention, it would need to run through at least the 2020 season. With the Padres window to contend being optimistically projected to reopen around that time, I believe it’d be a safe bet to add at least a couple more years onto that extension to ensure that the goal of keeping Myers around for these playoff runs is accomplished. That pushes the extension into the 7-8 year range.
Based on arbitration estimates, I’d also project that Myers is set to make around $6-7 million this offseason, with raises of around $1 million coming annually in subsequent campaigns until the North Carolina native is a free agent.
For those unfamiliar with arbitration, the process boils down to a raise for players still playing under their initial professional contracts to ensure that they are fairly compensated for their on-field contributions. The magnitude of this raise is determined largely through traditional statistics like home runs, RBI, batting average, and games played, with minor adjustments made based on where the player spends his time on defense.
Without a doubt, Myers has good numbers this year: 25 home runs, 25 stolen bases, 89 RBI, and 85 runs to date. However, looking at Myers’ career stats, this kind of offensive output appears to be more of an anomaly. Arbitration salaries are not helped much (if at all) by player potential, and as such, given Myers’ sudden success this season and his struggles to stay healthy in the past, I wouldn’t expect his salary to go much higher than the $6-7 million range I mentioned earlier.
Now, let’s assume that in order to keep Myers around longterm, the Padres would need to pay him similar money to what he might expect to receive in arbitration. That means a potential extension could look something like 7 years and $50 million (factoring in consistently increasing market values). That’s a lot to commit to a player who has really only ever had 6-7 months of star-level performance in his four big-league campaigns, especially when that player also continues to carry the risk of being undone by injuries.
Finally, one has to look at what the roster might look like by the time that extension could actually be paying dividends for the big league club. Obviously, some current assets will likely be moved over the course of the next few seasons, but we can create an idea of a potential line-up based on the players currently in the Padres system.
During his career, Myers has shown the ability to play a corner outfield position decently and first base exceptionally. The problem is that, at first, the Padres have youngster Josh Naylor, a top-100 prospect acquired in the Andrew Cashner trade with the Marlins. In the outfield, the Friars should expect to carry longtime right fielder of the future Hunter Renfroe, while other young outfielders like Alex Dickerson, Travis Jankowski and current minor leaguers like Michael Gettys, Jorge Ona, Buddy Reed, and Nick Torres could also eventually factor into the equation. That’s a lot of potential line-up pieces to block in order to keep a guy with Myers’ checkered performance history around.
The Verdict: Do not extend Wil Myers
In the end, I do not believe that the Padres should aggressively pursue an extension with Wil Myers. Yes, it does seem tempting to have the chance to lock up the current face of the franchise for the foreseeable future, and I’m not saying I’d still say no if somehow the Padres could get Myers for less than $5 million a season. At that price, an extension would seem to be a risk worth taking. Unfortunately, given Myers’ history as a top prospect (keep in mind that he was once likened by Sports Illustrated to 1980’s Braves slugger Dale Murphy) and consequentially limitless production ceiling, I don’t believe he can had for so cheaply.
Considering the question marks that still surround him, a far more prudent approach for the Friars front office would be to let him move through an initial round of arbitration while keeping an eye on what other teams might be willing to offer for him. Take a moment to sit back and see how things develop. Right now, Myers, similarly to Drew Pomeranz this summer, represents an outstanding sell-high candidate who has demonstrated the potential for greatness but hasn’t quite been able to cross the proverbial threshold into full-blown stardom. If offered in a trade, the package that the Padres would be able to get in return for the 25-year old should be enormous, and might go farther towards expediting the Padres rebuilding efforts than a few more seasons of Wil Myers possibly could.
I am not saying that Myers will never be a part of the Padres playoff equation. As a longtime fan desperate for a star player to call San Diego’s own, I would love nothing more than to watch White Queso front the Padres’ playoff aspirations in seasons to come. However, at this point, I have yet to see enough of Myers to be willing to make a significant financial commitment to him. Another strong season in 2017 could further cement the now-foggy answers to questions about Myers’ ability to put together productive, 162-game seasons for a handful of seasons in a row. Then, and only then, would I be comfortable with a Myers extension.
Until that time comes, though? Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.