The time may have come for the Padres and Wil Myers to cut ties.
Although Myers does have the athleticism to be a star, he appears to lack the intensity and other intangibles necessary to achieve stardom. The 2013 American League Rookie of the Year has certainly not lived up to the expectations the Padres had for him when general manager A.J. Preller signed him to a 6-year, $83 million contract in January of 2017.
But the team has not lived up to its part of the bargain either. Instead, the front office anointed him the face of the franchise, and then backed off of the designation. Worse, the team has moved him from position to position, almost guaranteeing that he does not live up to his promise or his contract.
Of course, a variety of injuries have not helped. In his entire major league career, including stops in Kansas City, Tampa, and San Diego, Myers has topped out at 157 and 155 games in 2016 and 2017 respectively. With the Rays in the two years before the trade, he averaged fewer than 90 games a season.
While with the Padres, he’s been burdened by the performance of the players (especially shortstop Trea Turner) the Padres gave up to acquire him in a three-way trade that included the Rays and Nationals. The loss of a promising young shortstop, who could also hit, left a lingering bad taste especially in light of the fact that shortstop had been a black hole since the forced departure of Khalil Greene in 2008.
Preller traded for Myers undoubtedly in part because the year before he took over, the Padres ranked last in runs scored with 535 and had a miserable OPS of .634. Surely a hitter the caliber of the young Myers could help goose up those numbers. In 2015 the Padres did improve in OPS to .685 but still ranked last, while scoring 650 runs good enough for 23rdplace.
In his tenure with the Padres, Myers has performed better at the plate than in the field. Not coincidentally, his best years on both sides of the ball came in 2016-17 when he played first base regularly. He stayed healthier, played far more games and put up above average (although not earth-shattering) numbers as a hitter. In fact, the batting line from both seasons is remarkably similar: .259/.336/.427/.763 in 2016, .243//.328/.464/.792 the following year.
Instead of keeping Myers at first, the Padres surprised just about everyone by signing Eric Hosmer in the offseason to an eight-year, $144 million contract that dwarfs Myers’ deal. Hosmer would not only supplant Myers at first but also as the new face of the franchise. Then, to complicate matters (and undoubtedly make Myers feel slighted), a crowded outfield made him the odd man out. Almost as an afterthought, the Padres decided to stick him at third base.
In his first year, the Padres assumed Myers’ athleticism would play well in center field, a serious misjudgment that led to a -23.7 UZR/150. However, in right or left field his defense has been passable. Of the several positions he has played, he’s been most successful at first and that has carried over into his offense.
Myers even made the MLB All-Star team in 2016, the year in which the Padres hosted the event. His FanGraphs WAR of 3.5 for the first half of that season matched that of Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo, the two topping all major league first baseman. Then, by his own admission, Myers slacked off the rest of the season. Therein lies another piece to the puzzle called Wil Myers. He doesn’t have much of a filter and makes unscripted comments that come back to bite him.
Most recently, Myers complained to a fellow Padre about manager Andy Green insisting that he participate in drills designed to improve his defense at third. Of course, the comment made the news, and he had to publically apologize to his manager.
Add that embarrassment to his six errors in 34 games at third base, and Myers must want this season to end yesterday. Before this year, he had played third in only 16 games (mostly at the Triple-A level for the Rays), so there’s bound to be a learning curve.
At 27, Myers hasn’t reached that decline which begins around the age of 30 for most ballplayers. He’s still a talented player, and, if he can stay healthy (a big if) he could contribute to another club. He could even possibly thrive if actually kept in a position in which he feels comfortable.
Teams will not be knocking down the door to trade for Myers this offseason, but a change of scenery could benefit both the player and the team. The Padres would probably have to eat some of his salary, but that wouldn’t be a first for Preller and company.
While Myers has largely been a disappointment in his tenure with San Diego, the front office must take a large share of the blame for the situation. He’s been tossed from position to position, supplanted by a replacement at both first and as the face of the franchise, and been embarrassed and frustrated at third. A fresh start makes sense for all involved.