Would It Be Worth It To Take On Wil Myers’ Contract To Acquire Elite Prospects?

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 7: Wil Myers #4 of the San Diego Padres flips his bat after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies at Petco Park September 7, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 7: Wil Myers #4 of the San Diego Padres flips his bat after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies at Petco Park September 7, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

Buying a prospect is a concept the  Pittsburgh Pirates should get into, but is Wil Myers the best to try it with?

Recently, some teams have been taking on bad contracts to acquire a high ranking prospect. The most recent example was when the San Francisco Giants traded for 2019 first round pick Will Wilson from the LA Angels of Anaheim. All the Giants had to do is include one minor league pitcher who was passed on in the Rule 5 Draft and take on all of Zack Cozart’s contract (owed $14.5 million through 2020).

Cozart would eventually be released, but the Giants were still left with Wilson, who currently is the team’s 10th best prospect. Not a bad deal for the Giants. After all, that $14.5 million they paid Cozart this year isn’t going to impact them much anyway. They’re not looking to compete, and are likely still just going to introduce young pieces to the Majors.

This is a tactic the Pittsburgh Pirates could take advantage of. Take on a bad contract a team is desperate to get rid of, and get a prospect in return. Currently, one of the worst contracts in MLB belongs to the Padres’ Wil Myers.

Myers is coming off an extremely disappointing 2019 season. He batted just .239/.321/.418 with 18 home runs, and 16 stolen bases in 490 plate appearances. This resulted in a wRC+ of just 96.

Defensively, he was a nightmare in center field with -10 DRS and -4.1 UZR. Although he was average in left field (0 DRS, 0.1 UZR), it was made all the worse that the 2013 American League Rookie Of The Year would be paid $22.5 million each of the next three seasons. This is all because of an extension the team signed with Myers after his 2016 All-Star season. Clearly, it hasn’t worked out as the Padres would have liked it to.

Plus with other high priced contracts on the team’s payroll (Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer), and the team looking to compete now, shedding this contract could really help the team pursue a high-priced free agent. Next off-season, the big fish will be Boston Red Sox 2017 MVP Mookie Betts, who the Padres are currently attempting to acquire via trade. But he is far from the only extremely productive name on the list. Shortstops Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons will also hit free agency, as well as outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley, and infielder DJ LeMahieu.

On the Pirates end, taking on this contract could give them an elite level prospect. Plus, with a payroll that sits just below $50 million, they can afford to take on a bad contract. The Padres also have an extremely deep farm system. Possibly even the best in baseball.

If the Padres are desperate enough, they could be willing to sacrifice someone like the 5th best prospect in baseball, lefty Mackenzie Gore. Or maybe even the 27th best prospect in baseball, RHP Luis Patino.

Now, I highly doubt that they would be willing to part with a top 5 (or even a top 30) prospect just to shed Myers’ contract. But maybe a top 50 prospect. Top catching prospect, and third place finisher in wRC+ in the California League, Luis Campusano would almost have to be included in a deal where the Pirates took on all of Myers’ contract. Not only is Campusano the 50th best prospect (according to MLB.com), and rising, but a future plan behind the plate is something the Pirates desperately need.

Now these two questions would obviously come into play: would it be worth it to sacrifice a top prospect just to shed Myers’ contract, and would it be worth it to the Pirates to eat all of Myers’ remaining ~$70 million+the $1 million buyout for 2023 left on Myers’ contract?

For the Pirates it might not be worth it in the long run. It might be a better idea to join the trend of extending your prospects and young players before they make a large impact at the Major League level. Allocating the money that you would have spent on Myers alone toward Ke’Bryan Hayes, Cole Tucker, Mitch Keller, Kevin Newman, Travis Swaggerty, Oneil Cruz, and Bryan Reynolds seems like a better idea.

Having that $22.5 million a season for the next three years on the payroll is going to be hard to extend said players. Not to mention that if they are competitive by 2022/2023, it will also be hard to go after any free agents when you just paid one player almost $70 million total in the last three seasons, and have other players you want to extend. Unless they are getting back Campusano and a few young pitchers (Adrian Morejon, Ryan Weathers, Michel Baez, etc), then it probably isn’t worth it.

This gets into the next question of why should the Padres part with Campusano+, just to get rid of Myers?

Myers wasn’t that bad in the three seasons prior to 2019. From 2016 to 2018, Myers hit for a solid .252/.329/.459 with a 112 OPS+, while averaging 25 home runs/stolen bases a season. In each of those 3 seasons, Myers provided positive marks in DRS at first base (+8), third base (+1), and in the corner outfield spots (+6). Now a good, but not great defender, and 110 OPS+ a season might not be worth $22.5 million a season, but if he can produce numbers like that, it’s not awful.

It’s more than serviceable on a team that could see Machado bounce back, a full season from Fernando Tatis Jr., offensive standout backstop Francisco Mejia, and recent acquisition Tommy Pham. If you are a Padres fan and worried about their payroll, fear not. Currently they’re almost $53 million below the luxury tax threshold, and they’ll shed nearly $35 million more after the 2020 season. Jurickson Profar, Garrett Richards, and Kirby Yates will hit free agency, and they will no longer owe money to the recently retired Ian Kinsler, and one time Cuban prospect Hector Olivera. They’ll have more than enough money and luxury tax space to sign one of the big name free agents, and still have enough money to go after a few pitchers, with or without Myers.

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Buying prospects is something the Pirates should look into doing. It will help them build up a farm system, but Myers’ contract isn’t the best example of a good salary dump/use as leverage in getting a prospect out of a team. When the Giants traded for Cozart, it was for just one season. Trading for Myers would be for 3 expensive seasons.

Personally, I don’t see it as a good investment for the Pirates, nor do I see the Padres getting desperate enough to part with multiple top prospects just to get rid of the contract. If the Pirates want to buy a prospect, there are far better contracts to do it with.