The Padres are in the middle of a project to rebuild the organization from the ground up. Now that we’re more than a quarter of the way through the 2016 season, it’s clear that this team won't contend and therefore many are considering this year a lost cause. It’s reasonable to expect the team to seek trades for its most valuable assets with an eye on years to come, so the landscape is starting to rumble about Jon Jay, Melvin Upton, Matt Kemp, Fernando Rodney, etc., etc. If we look at all of the players on the Padres’ roster, the brightest star is first baseman Wil Myers. He’s performing at an All-Star level in every way, and he’s under team control for a while. One would think that he would be the centerpiece in the team’s future plans, but Jon Heyman has suggested that the team is willing to move him. Would they really do that?
Wil Myers came in to the league as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. When he was traded by the Kansas City Royals for James Shields and Wade Davis in 2010, it was panned as an overpay since he was viewed as such a strong "cant-miss" prospect at the time. After mashing his way through the minors and auditioning just about everywhere around the diamond, he made his MLB debut in 2013 at rightfield with the Tampa Bay Rays. He lived up to the hype, earning the Rookie of the Year award due to his impressive .293/.354/.478 performance at the plate. Unfortunately, a wrist injury cut his 2013 season short, which would continue to hamper him for the next two years.
The 2014 season was a disappointment as he struggled at the plate and failed to stay healthy, trying to battle through his ailing wrists. The shine had worn off and he was viewed by some to be a bust at only 23 years of age. The Padres’ scouting group must have seen the talent behind the struggles, as they pulled the trigger on a blockbuster move, trading away much of the organization’s top prospect talent including first round pick Trea Turner and promising pitchers Joe Ross, Burch Smith. This time, the move was received in a different manner, as the Padres were seen as trading away too much talent for a damaged player.
2015 was a disappointing season for Padres fans in many ways, but Myers’ struggles were near the top of everyone’s lists. The athletic fielder was given the keys to centerfield, but it was clearly apparent that he wasn’t suited for the role. His offensive game was just as frustrating, as he slumped along with the rest of the lineup. After stints on the disabled list due to more wrist injuries, he was finally shelved for a couple of months as he underwent surgery in June to remove a bone spur from his left wrist. After coming back at the end of the season, he still failed to make consistent hard contact, but the bright spot was that he seemed to have taken a liking to a new position: first base.
Well before Spring Training of 2016, he was given the starting job at first base, and he has flourished ever since. He says that he’s more engaged in the game, while his athleticism and background as a catcher give him the tools to be one of the best defensive first basemen in the game. The bat has bloomed as well, as he is at or near the team lead in just about every offensive category. His swing looks fluid and free, and his wrists appear as healthy and supple as a pinball wizard. According to Fangraph’s metrics, he trails only Paul Goldschmidt in overall value at the position. He even seems to be enjoying himself out there, as he flips the ball around the horn after outs and chums it up with Fernando Rodney after every save, to see where the arrow went.
Wil Myers is under team control until 2020, his first year of free agency eligibility. He will begin his arbitration years next season, which means that the Padres have a young, talented player under wraps well into a potential window of contention. Considering the cost that was given up to acquire him, and the opportunity cost of trading away such a valuable, affordable young player, why would the Padres consider moving their greatest asset?
By now we should all know that no player is untradeable. AJ Preller has proven to be a remarkable deal-maker through the Prellerpalooza of 2015 and the Craig Kimbrel blockbuster that brought four top prospects back to the organization. Wil Myers’ trade value may be at an all-time high right now. He’s healthy, he’s mashing, he looks great with the glove, and he seems to be genuinely enjoying himself for the first time in a long time. To acquire that caliber of player would certainly reap a bevy of prospect talent, but at some point you have to rely on the old saying that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." With no top-level first base talent in the prospect pool right now, Myers should be the foundation for the building project that is currently underway.
As a fan, Myers is clearly the most marketable young player on the roster. Matt Kemp gets plenty of camera time, but he’s on the decline and it’s clear that he’s not a part of the long-term plans for the organization. It’s been a long time since the team had a young player worthy of jersey sales, but I’d like to see Myers on the back of a Padres jersey for many years to come. In my opinion, Jon Heyman is only stating the obvious in that Preller will listen to any deal on any player, but at the end of the day, Myers is the one player in the organization that should be kept off the trading block.