After he was traded and signed with the Dodgers essentially forever, the small chance of justification of trading Mookie Betts and stunningly bringing him back after the competitive balance threshold reset simply disappeared. The team is almost certainly worse now and in the future without the game’s second-best player. Compounded by also trading David Price (and later losing Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez) Boston has a rotation that would be thankful to add Aaron Cook, Wade Miley, or the 2009 version of John Smoltz that briefly donned the Red Sox uniform.
Sure, Jeter Downs could be the successor to Dustin Pedroia one day and Alex Verdugo is a fine player in his own right — he’s certainly impressed so far in 2020 — but it’s not the same.
But now the Padres are back in the mix.
San Diego has been rebuilding since back-to-back division titles in 2005 and 2006 - still the early years of Frank McCourt ruining the Dodgers - and haven’t sniffed the postseason since. The Friars haven’t finished above .500 since 2010 (and then they trade Adrián González!). With shiny, expensive contracts to Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado and a young core building around guys like Fernando Tatís and Chris Paddock, fans asking “What can Brown do for me?” may not have to wait much long. Of course, the Dodgers exist and therefore the Padres need every edge they can get. Having signed two massive deals the small market team is, somewhat sensibly, looking to free up cash to compete with the juggernaut two hours north on the 101. And the rumors have been been heating up since winter.
Padres, Red Sox still talking about deal involving Wil Myers https://t.co/qSBbCWVvRD— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) February 18, 2020
Enter Wil Myers, subject of the blockbuster between the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays back in 2012. Winner of the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year award. Small name in the trade that got the Washington Nationals Trea Turner. Still just 29 years old, Myers is mostly a corner outfielder and first baseman these days with 20-home run power and double digit steals speed.
However, since his 2013 .293/.354/.478, 2.3 fWAR (in 88 games) campaign he’s hit just .246/.324/.430 in three full and two partial seasons prior to 2020, with injuries keeping him of the field. In the 24 games so far this year Myers has six homers and the same number of doubles to go with a .944 OPS. While that probably doesn’t last - unless this is an unexpected breakout - there’s still something there for the first baseman/outfielder.
Signed through 2022 on a six-year, $83 million deal, Myers’ contract is backloaded: $22.5 million for each of the next three seasons after making either $4.5 or $5.5 million per year over the first half of his deal. And there’s the rub: the luxury tax doesn’t look at each year’s full salary but the Average Annual Value, which in this case is just $13.8 million. So for the Red Sox, who are trying to stay under the luxury threshold, Myers is cheaper in luxury dollars - which are scarce - than real dollars - of which the Sox have plenty to allocate. The Padres may have signed Myers in the style of the Washington Nationals and Jayson Werth - spending money before they turned the corner to show free agents - like Hosmer and Machado - that they were serious about providing the resources to win. No one wants to be the first to sign in a rebuild. But with young stars rising and free agents signed, he’s now expendable.
Trading Mookie Betts was, and still is, a travesty, but the Sox lead baseball in dead money this season when you look at Rusney Castillo and the payments for David Price. Add in an injured Dustin Pedroia, a hopefully rebuilt Chris Sale in 2021 or 2022, and always uncertain Nathan Eovaldi, and there’s great incentive to be creative. Even with Mookie Betts out of the picture, the Sox can salvage a core of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.
Although a Betts-Myers (not to be confused with former pitcher Brett Myers) swap was rumored before the ultimate deal with the Dodgers, a Myers acquisition could still benefit the Red Sox, even if Myers isn’t the player he looked like he could be at the start of his career. Rather than the Padres taking on salary for the Red Sox, Boston would be doing so to reload the farm system. Word out of San Diego earlier this spring was that pitcher Cal Quantrill, catcher Luis Campusano, and infielder Gabriel Arias are all on the table. And maybe that’s still something that could happen, even without a Mookie Betts on the table.
Chaim Bloom was hired to be creative. That was the calling card of the front office of which he was a part in Tampa Bay - particularly with pitching. Maybe he can figure out a way to pick up some top prospects, take on a contact structured to benefit a high-payroll team, and give fans a reason to cheer again in 2021. The Red Sox are essentially the worst team in baseball now, but he’s up to the challenge. Is Wil Myers ready to to excise his Fenway Park ghosts?