Alright, here’s the situation. This trade isn’t about Wil Myers.
At least, not primarily, or perhaps secondarily. Tertiarily seems fair. But we’ll start with his why first all the same.
The San Diego Padres longtime OF/1B née 3B/CF has lived at least four lives in his big league career, but now stands as a 31-year-old in his 10th big league season, seemingly the odd man out on a team that was once built around him. Myers was once the only player on the Padres with a guaranteed contract, the lone core remnant of the ill-fated 2015-2016 all-in Padres, earning a staggeringly backloaded six-year, $83 million deal that paid him just $7 million total over the first three seasons but $60 million over the next three, with a $20 million team option for 2023 and a $1 million buyout. While he’s remained an above-average hitter over the course of the deal, he’s not quite emerged into stardom as perhaps hoped.
In his final guaranteed season with the club, Myers is clinging to reps on the 22-13 Padres by the skin of his teeth. On a roster teeming with versatile gloves that can handle their bats, Myers is more limited. The former top prospect can still run quite well, ranking in the 80th percentile for sprint speed by Baseball Savant, and his numbers as a corner outfielder are around average. The trouble has been a decline at the dish, essentially reversing the promising 2020 half-campaign with some more troubling numbers in 2021 and a full on freeze to start 2022. Kyle Horton of Pitcher List identified that Myers was expanding the zone too much inside last year, causing him to generate too much weak contact instead of mashing pitches over the plate that he could better handle. He’s certainly struggled in his part-time role this year, with just a 70 wRC+ and a .237/.268/.310 line in 82 plate appearances, albeit a rather small sample. He’s competing with Eric Hosmer and Luke Voit for plate appearances, as well as feeling the breath of San Diego’s farm system on his neck and the looming return of Fernando Tatis Jr.. It’s possible Myers is cooked, but Seattle has every reason to give a player with a lengthy track record of hitting capably a shot, particularly given the immediate state of their roster.
With Mitch Haniger likely out at least until July, Kyle Lewis struggling to make consistent progress on his rehab assignment, Taylor Trammell still sidelined, and Jarred Kelenic getting a Triple-A reset, Monday night’s game was an example of the dire nature of the Seattle Mariners’ lineup, particularly against LHP. Myers has a 117 wRC+ against lefties lifetime, and the former Rookie of the Year could provide at least what Luis Torrens, Dylan Moore, and Steven Souza Jr. (who Myers was once traded for) have offered at the bottom of Seattle’s order against southpaws. At worst, Seattle can likely offer a month or two of audition time for a possible OF/DH upgrade at next to no cost prospect-wise.
I mention prospect cost because the crux of a Myers trade is all about the money. His $20 million (prorated) is a nuisance for the Padres, and though his overall luxury tax hit is lower - merely $13.8 million - he is, for lack of a graceful term, the healthy player being paid the most to perform the least for the Padres. That makes him someone San Diego is eager to move, and the club reportedly shopped Myers hard this spring, to no avail. Trading Myers to a club willing to take on some or all of his remaining guaranteed money would free San Diego up to be more aggressive at the trade deadline, assuming they aren’t eager to push into the higher thresholds of the luxury tax. Which brings us to the primary point...
The Mariners did not spend up to expectations this winter. They came into a season they declared intent for playoff contention with a 21st-ranked payroll having opted for one major signing and addressing holes through trades primarily. In their biggest transaction of the spring, they brought on OF Jesse Winker for a lesser prospect cost by taking on 3B Eugenio Suárez’s entire remaining contract, and a similar principle can apply here. For Seattle, they have the opportunity to make an addition at very little cost beyond finances, essentially taking Myers on at a one-year flier with no long-term commitments while shoring up an immediate area of need.
That could come in the form of RHP Dinelson Lamet, also on the trade block as the multi-roled righty has been pushed out of the Padres rotation by their stable of stars and an impressive emergence from a few young arms. When Blake Snell returns to the rotation Wednesday, San Diego will have a claim at one of the league’s elite rotations, with Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea, Joe Musgrove, Mike Clevinger, and Snell backed up by Nick Martinez, MacKenzie Gore, Ryan Weathers, Lamet, and more. Depending on the going rate for arms or San Diego’s sense of urgency to open up their options financially, Seattle could look to pry Weathers away, or seek a promising prospect from further down the farm. My preference would be to stick to 40-man upgrades, particularly as San Diego’s lengthy injured list will eventually begin to thin and Seattle can take advantage of that looming roster crunch to improve their own thin pitching depth.
The return for San Diego is tricky. In reality, the move is one of potential - Seattle offers San Diego the chance to make more aggressive additions, and particularly with Lamet as part of such a deal, the M’s can relieve San Diego of another $4.775 million prorated due to the hard-throwing righty in arbitration. Seattle can deal away from their Triple-A depth of utility players or move one of their lesser non-40 man roster prospects in the low to mid minors. At the risk of hand-waving the cost as nearly moot, Seattle is doing the Padres the service of paying Myers to get another piece or two; the return the Padres receive beyond that will not be front of mind. Any move Seattle might make should be focused on improving the club in both the short and long term, and this opportunity is as good as any to do so, with a wide range of routes to a satisfactory end. It’s why Seattle and San Diego have made sense as trade partners before, but now, with both clubs attempting to compete, Wil Myers can line up satisfactorily once again, this time in a way that actually makes sense, perhaps for the final time. I’ve asked for Wil Myers before, but now, just maybe, it can come true.