Wil Myers stands as one of the Padres’ highest-profile and highest-paid players, the recipient of a six-year, $83MM contract extension entering the 2017 season. Myers was a first baseman coming off his lone All-Star season at that point, but his production has dipped since he landed his deal, and he lost his first base job when the team made an eight-year, $144MM commitment to Eric Hosmer in February 2018. Now, three months into the 2019 season, a struggling Myers is losing playing time as a member of a crowded outfield, as AJ Cassavell of MLB.com writes.
Myers was out of the Padres’ starting lineup for their game against the Cardinals on Saturday. The 28-year-old has now started just twice for the Padres since June 19, a span in which he has totaled only 10 at-bats. Padres manager Andy Green insists Myers’ relegation to the bench is temporary, a way for the player to work on getting his strikeout issues under control.
“We expect Wil to be a part of what we’re doing here for a long time,” Green told Cassavell. “He’s handled everything that we’ve given him well.”
Green’s words may not do much to quell trade speculation centering on Myers, who doesn’t look like an ideal fit for the team’s roster anymore. The problem, even if San Diego does want to trade Myers to alleviate its outfield logjam, is that he likely doesn’t have much value. Myers’ 104 wRC+ since he signed his extension is just a bit better than league average – which isn’t optimal for a first baseman (if another team put him back there) or a corner outfielder, let alone a well-compensated one. Because the Padres heavily backloaded Myers’ contract, he still has $62.5MM in guarantees coming his way through 2022 (including a $1MM buyout for ’23).
Myers is now in the throes of his worst season since 2014, the year before the Rays traded him to the Padres. Across 272 plate appearances, Myers has hit .223/.317/.408 (94 wRC+) with 11 home runs, nine steals and 97 strikeouts against 31 walks. The former AL Rookie of the Year’s strikeout rate (35.7 percent) is 9.5 points worse than his career mark and good for dead last in the majors among qualified batters. Moreover, Myers ranks toward the bottom of the sport in expected batting average (16th percentile), average exit velocity (37th percentile), expected slugging percentage (43rd percentile) and expected weighted on-base average (43rd percentile), according to Statcast. There’s very little difference been his .325 xwOBA and .318 real wOBA.
To Myers’ credit, he’s a fast runner who has been a neutral or better corner outfielder over the past couple years, per Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. Myers has accounted for 3 DRS/1.5 UZR in the corners this year, though subpar work in center (minus-6 DRS, minus-2.7 UZR) has stained his aggregate defensive contributions. Overall, the package has been worth a measly 0.3 wins above replacement this year. Three Padres outfielders – fellow right-handed corner sluggers Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes as well as athletic center fielder Manuel Margot – have outdone him by that metric. The club also has rookie corner outfielder Josh Naylor on hand, though his career has gotten off to such a slow start that even Myers’ so-so 2019 numbers trump his.
To be sure, Myers is a better player than Naylor at this juncture. Still, Myers continues to look like a questionable fit in San Diego, and his recent role change (even if impermanent) makes that all the more obvious. But it remains to be seen whether the Padres, who are 41-40 and pushing for a playoff spot, will try to find a taker for Myers in advance of the July 31 trade deadline. Considering Myers’ unspectacular production and the money left on his deal, doing so wouldn’t be easy.