The Reds announced they have signed first baseman/outfielder Wil Myers to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2024. Myers will be guaranteed $7.5MM on the deal, which comes in the form of a $6MM salary in 2023 along with a $1.5MM buyout on the option. He can earn a further $1.5MM of incentives based on playing time and will receive an extra $500K if he’s traded, potentially earning $9.5MM by season’s end. Myers is represented by CAA Sports.
Myers, 32, was originally drafted by the Royals but was traded to the Rays before he made it to the majors. He was considered one of the best prospects in the league at that time, with Baseball America ranking him fourth overall going into the 2013 season. Myers would go on to make his MLB debut with Tampa that year, posting a batting line of .293/.354/.478. That production was 29% above average, by measure of wRC+. He was worth 2.3 wins above replacement in the eyes of FanGraphs and won the American League Rookie of the Year award.
Despite his prospect status and exciting debut, Myers has since settled in as more of a decent regular than a true star. He endured a sophomore slump in 2014, hitting just .222/.294/.320 for a wRC+ of 76. After that season, Myers was traded to the Padres and bounced back. Injuries limited him to just 60 games in 2015, but his 2016 was excellent. He hit 28 home runs and stole 28 bases, finishing the year with a batting line of .259/.336/.461 and a wRC+ of 114. That resulted in a 3.4 fWAR tally and encouraged the Padres to give Myers a six-year, $83MM extension.
Unfortunately for the Padres, that 2016 campaign now stands out as Myers’ best. He’s still been a valuable player, but hasn’t topped 2.0 fWAR in any subsequent season. Despite still being a decent contributor, his contract eventually came to be seen as an albatross due to its back-loaded nature. Myers got a $15MM signing bonus but then modest salaries of $2MM in 2017 and 2018, followed by $3MM in 2019, but then jumping to $20MM for each of the last three years of the deal. The club reportedly made many attempts to trade Myers in the latter half of the deal but never succeeded.
Over the six years of that contract, Myers hit 98 home runs and stole 61 bases. He struck out in 29.2% of his plate appearances but also walked at a healthy 9.8% rate. In the end, he produced a combined batting line of .252/.327/.451 for a wRC+ of 109, indicating he was 9% better than the league average hitter in that timeframe. He should be able to provide the Reds with a solid veteran bat that might also play up in their hitter-friendly ballpark.
Defensively, Myers played exclusively at first base in 2017 but has spent most of his time in the outfield in the five seasons since. Advanced metrics are split on his work, though he generally grades out as being about average as a corner outfielder and a bit subpar at first base. Myers’ flexibility in that regard is likely appealing to a Reds’ team that has uncertainty in those areas. Joey Votto has been the club’s first baseman for well over a decade now, but he’s now 39 years old, turning 40 in September. He also underwent season-ending rotator cuff surgery in August, which comes with an estimated six-month recovery time. That should allow him to return before Opening Day, but Myers gives them an experienced fallback plan if there’s any kind of setback or if the club wants to reduce Votto’s playing time.
In the outfield, they have a number of in-house options but no one really cemented in place. Nick Senzel, Nick Solak, Jake Fraley and TJ Friedl are some of the candidates who could be vying for outfield roles in 2023, but none of them have proven themselves enough that they should be guaranteed anything. Myers can step in wherever he fits best based on how those others are doing and can also take some time as the designated hitter if those others are all doing well. Mike Moustakas is also in line for some DH duty but he’s coming off two-straight disappointing and injury-marred campaigns. If Myers is performing well or the Reds simply want to make room for their younger players, Myers could become a trade candidate as the deadline approaches.
Financially, the rebuilding Reds haven’t thrown much money around this winter. This is just their second major league signing of the offseason alongside a modest deal for backup catcher Luke Maile. Roster Resource calculates this signing as bumping their payroll up to $78MM. That’s still well shy of their $114MM figure from Opening Day 2022, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. If they are willing to spend up to similar levels, they could still have some more cash for further moves, though they also might stay on the low side after aggressively trading away significant salaries in recent years.
Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported the $7.5MM guarantee and the ability for Myers to reach $9.5MM. Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer first had the specifics of the $500K bonus for a trade plus $1.5MM in incentives. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com first broke down the $6MM salary in 2023 with the $1.5MM buyout on the option.
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