There are trades that make sense from a baseball point of view; there are trades that make sense from an economic point of view. Does the potential Wil Myers trade to the Red Sox make sense from either standpoint?
My initial thought when I first saw this, and the only name mentioned from the Padres side was Myers, was oh hell no!
The Red Sox, as you might have heard, recently offloaded David Price to the Dodgers in what was a clear salary dump, despite John Henry’s comments about not worrying about getting below the competitive balance tax threshold. If getting below that threshold wasn’t a concern for the Sox Front Office, I don’t see why you trade Price. Yes, he wasn’t stellar last season, but losing him undoubtedly weakens our rotation – so the only way the deal makes sense to me is from an economic standpoint, rather than a baseball one.Embed from Getty Images
Based on reports the Dodgers only took on half of Price’s contract with the Red Sox retaining the other half. This means the Sox reduced their payroll by $16 million a year for the next three years. Wil Myers is owed $20 million a year for the next three years, of which $13.8 million counts towards the competitive balance tax as it’s AAV (average annual value) which is considered in the tax calculation. We currently sit at around $13.5 million under the tax threshold. Taking on Myers contract in full would, therefore, most likely push us back above the limit, thereby totally negating the economic benefit of trading Price (again I see no reason to trade him on baseball grounds alone).
Now the above is obviously predicated on San Diego not retaining any portion of Myers’ contract or us not offloading any salary back to the Padres as part of the trade – something which could happen if they’re after prospects, but given the strength of the Padres farm system, I suspect they’re looking for MLB ready players.
So who could be sent to the Padres as part of the deal?
Given that the acquisition of Myers would give us five MLB outfielders (Myers, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar and Alex Verdugo), the obvious conclusion is that we’d look to move on one of our four current outfielders. This would make sense if Myers was an upgrade over any of the other players mentioned, and specifically if he was an upgrade on JBJ, given that he’s entering the final year of his contract at Boston.Embed from Getty Images
So is he an upgrade on any of the outfielders already on the Red Sox roster?
If we first consider his offensive output over the last three seasons when compared to the other four then Myers would rank:
- Fourth on batting average, hitting .010 better than JBJ in fifth
- Third in on-base percentage, .005 better than JBJ in fourth
- Second in slugging
- Top in home runs
- Top in strikeout percentage with a 29.8K% (just to clarify – by top I mean he has the highest, i.e. he strikes out the most).
That suggests he may have a role to play offensively if the Red Sox feel they’d like to add a little more power-hitting among their outfielders as, in essence, he’s a more powerful JBJ, when it comes to his contributions from the batter’s box (although he’s only hit nine homers more over the past three years, so the upgrade might be marginal).
Defensively though… oh boy!
Of the three players to play left field in the past three years (Beni, Verdugo and Myers), Myers has the lowest UZR (a whole two points below Benintendi’s). All five players have played centre field over the past three years, JBJ tops the UZR list with 9.9, Myers is dead last with minus 4.1 (for info Pillar is second with 7.2). Myers does rank second in UZR for right field with a value of 1.0 (JBJ tops the list with 1.9).
Therefore if you’re constructing your best defensive outfield it’s pretty clear that Benintendi, Pillar and JBJ fill the left, centre and right field spots, in that order. Does the marginally higher offensive output (when compared to JBJ) justify Myer’s inclusion in that triad instead? For me no, especially considering JBJ will be paid $9 million dollars less in 2020 than Myers would.
Two further things also worth noting are:
- Both Myers and JBJ are 29 years old, so it wouldn’t be the case the Red Sox were getting a younger player perhaps less prone to the ageing curve.
- JBJ can become a free agent after 2020 if he doesn’t sign an extension. I can’t believe that the Sox would be thinking of getting Myers in to cover this eventuality as they’ve just acquired Verdugo (unless they’re already regretting than deal). Given the 2020-21 outfield free agency class includes Mookie Betts, George Springer and Joc Pederson, if it was up to me I’d be saving all my pennies in a big jar to throw at one of them if I didn’t want to extend JBJ – not giving them to Myers now.
Now all of the above is predicated on this deal being done purely as one for one swap. In which case I certainly wouldn’t go for it. Would you pay $9 million a year more to JBJ if he learnt how to hit a little harder but field worse? I know I wouldn’t!
Since that initial reaction more details have emerged. Specifically, there’s talk of San Diego retaining part of Myers contract and including some prospects to boot. This is where the deal could get interesting!
The Red Sox farm system at the start of the offseason was in a pretty poor state. Admittedly this was due to previous prospects graduating to the big time (in some style in the case of Rafael Devers). Those graduations have left the cupboard a little bare, something emphasised by the fact that Jeter Downs became the number-one ranked Red Sox prospect as soon as he was acquired from the Dodgers.
One rumour has the Padres sweetening the Myers deal with the inclusion of catching prospect Luis Campusano and shortstop prospect Gabriel Arias – Campusano being a Fangraphs Top 100 prospect with a projected future value (FV) of 55 (which denotes an above-average major leaguer for those unfamiliar with the Fangraphs value scale). Another mentions the possibility of Cal Quantrill being included.Embed from Getty Images
Given the current hole in the starting rotation, I’d be more inclined to pursue the option that includes a starting pitcher. Would Quantrill improve the Red Sox pitching options?
His 23 games for the Padres last year saw him post a 4.28 FIP, 1.3 WAR and FIP- of 97. Projections this season showing him somewhere between 0.5 and 1.1 WAR with a FIP above 4.50. That would very much make him the fifth man in a five-man rotation with Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Martin Perez and Nathan Eovaldi, who all forecast to post higher WAR totals and better FIP according to Fangraphs Depth Charts. I’m just not sure he’s that good truth be told. I’m not saying he’s bad, just not good.
But he would be cheap, and if the Padres are willing to eat enough of Myers contract (say half) and throw in Campusano too, then I could see the Sox going for it. In this form, the deal would give them the chance to keep salary fairly level ($10 million for Myers and $555,000 for Quantrill versus $11 million for JBJ) while adding a top 100 prospect to their farm system and adding a functional, if uninspiring, piece to the starting rotation, who’s unlikely to be an everyday player but could serve as bench cover for Beni, Pillar and Verdugo.
Something else to note is that Quantrill also has two minor league options years left, meaning if needs be he could be sent down to carry on developing if he doesn’t adjust to life at Fenway straight away (Myers, like JBJ, is out of options so would be taking up a 26-man spot permanently).
Of course, I’m working on a wild assumption here that JBJ would be the piece going back the other way, the Padres (or the Sox) may have someone entirely different in mind!
Personally, I’m not convinced that three years of Myers and the gamble on Quantrill is worth it, we’ll have to wait and see if Chaim Bloom agrees or not.
Rich Hampson is covering the Boston Red Sox during 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @armchairbaseba1