The baseball Hot Stove is quickly heating up. Over the last few weeks we have seen increased movement on the free agent front, and this momentum will only accelerate once the Winter Meetings start next week.
Kansas City is coming off of a 2015 World Series victory, but there is work to be done. As has been discussed here before, the Royals have two more years with this core group of players before the Free Agent Apocalypse of 2018. These players will be in the late stages of arbitration the next two years, meaning increased salaries across the board. This offseason, the Royals have to fill the holes in left field, right field, and starting pitching. Ideally, the team would also offload Omar Infante to relieve salary and improve second base, as well as address bullpen depth concerns.
Even if the Royals have their dream offseason (re-signing Alex Gordon for left field, trading Infante for another bad contract like Matt Garza, and re-signing Ben Zobrist to play second base), they will still have one outfield spot up for grabs. We know what the Royals should be looking for:
- Full-time outfielder; Dayton Moore acquired Alex Rios to play right field for 2015 and then did not platoon Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando (or Rios) even when Rios was terrible
- Cost-effective; the Royals must fill the spots of Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez, Luke Hochevar, and Kris Medlen for 2017, which will be costly
- Under control for multiple years; KC must already replace the vast majority of their roster by 2018
There are a number of players that fit that mold, but there are a few that jump out. One of those is...Wil Myers. Yes, that Wil Myers. Myers would be a perfect fit for this team.
There is no indication that the Royals are specifically pursuing Myers, but Moore and the front office are very tight-lipped in the offseason; for instance, nobody pegged the Royals as interested in Kendrys Morales until it happened last year.
But the Royals need corner outfield help, and Myers is a moderate, effective, efficient option for one of those spots. Let's examine why the Royals could pursue him.
Myers' acquisition cost would be affordable
In 2014 and 2015, Myers has been underwhelming. After winning AL Rookie of the Year, Myers turned in two injury-riddled and marginally effective seasons. In the past two years, Myers hit .235/.311/.364 for a wRC+ of 93. Hitting seven percent below league average is not good when Myers' entire value comes from his offense--Myers only accrued 0.6 WAR in that time period. Another issue is that, in those two years, Myers only played a combined 147 games and 614 plate appearances. Myers will be 25 next season, and he has yet to play one full, healthy season at the Major League level.
There is a lot of uncertainty regarding Myers. Is he injury-prone? Will he be able to maintain good hitting over the course of an entire year? What is his ceiling? And just how bad is his outfield defense? This uncertainty is what makes Myers a reasonable option. Steamer predicts a bounceback for Myers in 2016, but it is still weary of his overall value, and basically predicts him to be an average player (2.1 WAR, .253/.336/.427 with poor defense).
San Diego Padres General Manager AJ Preller may covet somebody specific in the farm system, but Miguel Almonte/Bubba Starling/Brett Eibner would make a good core for a trade, with wiggle room on either side.
The other component of affordability is salary; if the Arizona Diamondbacks were to try and give Zack Greinke to the Kansas City for nothing next year, Greinke's $34 million salary would prohibit the small-market Royals from agreeing. Myers will make the league minimum in 2016, making him less than 1/20 as expensive as Alex Rios. Myers will then enter arbitration, where he will continue to make considerably below his market value, even if he never improves.
Myers still has upside
Myers is a former top prospect and a young, above-average hitter with poor defense and a problematic injury history. Overall, that has come out to average performance over 235 games, with a career total of 2.9 WAR.
More data is always better than less data, and the data available says that Myers hasn't really done all that well at the Major League level, and those doubts are why this version of Wil Myers is not the same version of Wil Myers that the Royals traded for James Shields, and why the Tampa Bay Rays were not willing to stick with him.
But Myers' upside still exists. He peaked at #4 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects for 2013, ahead of Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Anthony Rendon, George Springer, Noah Syndergaard, and Yordano Ventura, to name a few well-known and successful names. That was the year that Myers won the American League Rookie of the Year, and would have eclipsed a 4 WAR, 25 HR season if he had played the whole year in Tampa Bay.
Even before he won accolades at the highest level of baseball, Myers was well-regarded and eagerly anticipated. Baseball America listed him as the Royals' number one prospect for 2013, and had this to say about him:
The Tools: Plus hit/power; plus arm
What Happened in 2012: As it turns out, a healthy Myers is a monster Myers, as the 21-year-old put all questions from the 2011 season to rest by mashing at two levels and emerging as a top-10 prospect in baseball.
Strengths: Natural hitting ability; quick/strong wrists; balanced swing; excellent raw strength; plus bat speed; hit tool is easy 6; power potential is 6; middle-of-the-order profile; mature approach; quality athlete; plus arm.
Weaknesses: Not many weaknesses with the bat; swing can get a little wild; two-strike approach could use refinement; hasn’t been tested by high-level stuff yet; needs refinement with his outfield routes; baserunning.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
All the language that you look for in top prospects is there--'natural,' 'excellent,' 'mashing,' mature,' 'quality athlete.' But most interesting is that, under weaknesses, Baseball America explicitly says that there aren't any significant ones.
Drafted as a catcher, Myers was Salvador Perez' catching teammate in the low minors before the Royals switched him to outfield. Defensively, Mike Rosenbaum from Bleacher Report had this to say about him:
A former catcher who was moved to the outfield prior to the 2012 season, Myers’ athleticism allowed him to make a smooth transition to the new position.
While he has played center field in the past and could probably play there in a pinch at the highest level, his defensive actions, range and instincts are better suited for a corner outfield position. Meanwhile, Myers’ plus arm strength has always been his strongest defensive asset and profiles as a clean fit in right field.
Myers has less than 1000 plate appearances, and will be 25 next year. This year, Eric Hosmer was 25 and he had his career-best season after a few years of underperformance. This year, Mike Moustakas was 26 and he had his career-best season after a few years of terribleness. In 2011, a 27-year-old Alex Gordon morphed from disappointing player to Alex Gordon. So, the Royals have experience with this, even recently.
In addition, the Royals will lose two big bats in the next few seasons--Kendrys Morales in 2017, and Hosmer in 2018. Should Myers' defense be truly poor, they can begin giving him games at DH after Morales leaves and transition him to first base (where he has played with the Padres) after Hosmer leaves.
AJ Preller is wheelin' and dealin'
Last year, Preller took control of the San Diego Padres. If the Padres were Minecraft, then Preller was your new-to-Minecraft-cousin who got excited and built a bunch of phallic objects in your creative world while you got some pizza.
Preller traded for Justin Upton, Melvin Upton, Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, and Craig Kimbrel. He also signed James Shields to a $75 million contract. All totaled, 16 players switched teams as a result of Preller's GM madhouse. That extensive upheaval brought the team lots of attention and optimism, but also brought the team from 77 wins in 2014 to 74 wins in 2015.
Nothing has seemed to change this year, except the names involved.
The #RedSox today acquired 4-time All-Star RHP Craig Kimbrel from SD in exchange for 4 minor league players (cont).— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) November 14, 2015
Padres continue to try to push James Shields in the trade market. Owed $63 million over the next three seasons.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 3, 2015
In other words, #Padres plan to continue on path described earlier: Trying to compete while collecting prospects and possibly shedding $$$.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 6, 2015
If the Padres trade Myers, they can remain competitive and collect prospects, as Myers is not integral to their team.
In December of 2012, the Kansas City Royals traded Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields.
In December of 2014, the Rays traded Wil Myers to the San Diego Padres.
In February of 2015, the Padres signed Shields.
Now, Dayton Moore and the front office should not make decisions based on storylines, but trading for Myers would be amazing in that capacity. The Royals got Shields to propel their team to the playoffs, a goal achieved. If the Royals traded for Shields (not a crazy idea, as Shaun Newkirk argues in a post that will go live tomorrow) AND traded for Myers...the world would probably explode.
As it is, though, Myers is a fantastic blend of affordability, upside, and positional convenience that the Royals should heavily consider moving forward.