A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres have placed too much value on Wil Myers and, because of that lapse in judgment, have made three mistakes that may come back to haunt the team.
The front office gave up too much to acquire Wil Myers in the first place, misjudged his ability to play center field, and then not only handed him the richest contract in franchise history but also named him the face of the franchise.
During A.J. Preller’s flurry of deals in December of 2014, he made a three-team trade that included sending RHP Joe Ross and shortstop Trea Turner to Washington and acquiring Myers from Tampa Bay. Only a truly elite player should have rated the return of a speedster who plays a premium position and a young, controllable starting pitcher.
It should be noted that Turner (who is currently on the disabled list with fractured right wrist) is not the second coming of Cal Ripkin Jr. at shortstop. However, he would be a definite upgrade over Erick Aybar, who currently mans that position for the Padres. Aybar has a UZR 50 of -4.8, while Turner rates a 4.7.
In the meantime, Ross has a 17 and 13 record with the Nationals and a 3.89 ERA. By comparison, Jhoulys Chacin has the lowest ERA of the Padres’ starting pitchers at 4.41.
While Myers may not be your typical plodding first baseman, he can’t come close to Turner’s speed (rated near the top of all players in the majors). That kind of speed can get in a pitcher’s head and cause havoc on the base paths.
Speed aside, Myers has fallen short of his Rookie of the Year performance in 2013 for the Rays. In fairness, a broken right wrist in 2014 and tendinitis in his left wrist the next year limited his playing time. Healthy in 2016, he rewarded the Padres by playing 157 games, hitting 28 home runs, stealing 28 bases and slashing .259/.336/.461.
However this year, he doesn’t seem like the same player. He’s striking out at an unacceptable 30.2 percent (compared to Turner’s 17.5 percent). His defense at first has also regressed resulting in -4DRS and -14.3 UZR/150.
Of course, his less than stellar defensive play at first cannot match his performance in center field in 2015. The front office completely misjudged his ability to cover center, compounding the error by having him play next to Matt Kemp who was a disaster in right field.
Although the Padres scored more runs in 2015 thanks to the additions of hitters like Kemp and Justin Upton, the shoddy defense hurt the team, especially the pitchers. The team placed a far higher value on hitting than pitching and defense and paid the price with a 74 and 88 record and fourth-place finish in the National League West.
Myers’ performance in 2016 proved him to be a steady major league player but did not warrant granting him the largest salary in franchise history at $83 million. The big money kicks in in 2020 at $20 million for three years. Myers does not rate the same huge salary that a bona fide star like Buster Posey rechieves.
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And, as designated face of the franchise, he’s no Ken Caminiti. Although Caminiti wrestled his demons, admitting to steroid use and dying of a drug overdose, he was revered by his Padres’ teammates including Trevor Hoffman.
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“One of the things I do remember is the way he transformed the way the locker room approached games, how they became better teammates, how they were committed to the game,” Hoffman told Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union Tribune in 2016. “We were a young team in the ‘90s when we were getting put together. When he came over in that trade with Houston, we were kinda getting bullied by the Phillies and some teams…. And he immediately brought credibility. I felt like he really accelerated the learning curve.”
Wil Myers does not have the heart and fire of a Caminiti or Hoffman for that matter. While few players can compete with Caminiti’s intensity on the field, Myers radiates a sort of laid-back dude vibe. He even admitted in an interview with the Mighty 1090’s Darren Smith during spring training that he let up last year after his appearance in the All Star game.
By definition, the face of a franchise never, ever lets up. Still young and athletic, Wil Myers can certainly pick up the pace and try to replicate his rookie year performance during the course of his record-breaking contract. But he’ll never live up to that face-of-the-franchise designation.