Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: First Baseman Wil Myers

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12: Will Myers #4 of the San Diego Padres hits a double during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Andy Hayt/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12: Will Myers #4 of the San Diego Padres hits a double during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Andy Hayt/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates need to look into the first base market this year and first baseman/outfielder Wil Myers would be a perfect target.

The Pittsburgh Pirates need a first baseman, at least to start the year. Internally, their best option is Malcom Nuñez, but at just 21-years-old and relatively little playing time at Triple-A, the Pirates may let him get a little more familiar with the highest level of the minor leagues before promoting him. Although the free agent market for first basemen is bare bones thin, they might be able to find a short-term solution in the form of former All-Star and 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers.

Myers has always been overshadowed by the large extension the San Diego Padres gave him in the 2016-2017 off-season. He’s been consistently decent at the dish, posting a wRC+ of 100 or greater in seven of his last eight seasons (meaning he’s been league average or better for the better part of nearly a decade). But consistently decent isn’t what usually comes to mind when you think of Myers. Usually its the big overpay and the multiple times the Padres have tried to salary dump him despite his relatively decent production.

Myers had a decent season at the dish, batting .261/.315/.398 with a .311 wOBA and 104 wRC+. Myers’ .138 isolated slugging percentage is the second lowest of his career, and he hit just seven home runs in 286 plate appearances. He also only walked 7.3% of the time compared to his career average 9.8% walk rate. Regardless, he was still slightly above league average.

But Myers was hampered by an injury. From August through the end of the year, the outfielder/first baseman batted .285/.349/.482 with a .360 wOBA and 137 wRC+. He hit six home runs in just 152 trips to the plate, which is a pace of 24 in 600 plate appearances. On top of that, he had a much better 8.6% walk rate. The downside is he also struck out 31.6% of the time. While Myers has never been one to avoid the strikeout, over 30% of the time is high, even for him.

Another plus is that Myers does well in the clutch. He batted .314/.370/.500 with a .366 wOBA, and 141 wRC+ with men in scoring position. Usually, clutch can have high variance, but Myers has been consistently good with RISP. This is the seventh time in his ten-season career he’s batted for a 110+ wRC+ with RISP, and the third straight season, he has put up a wRC+ of 130 or greater in these situations.

Myers finished up his Padres tenure as a .254/.330/.451 batter. He hit 134 total home runs and averaged about 16-20 long balls each season. Although he had a poor 27.5% strikeout rate, he also had a 9.9% walk rate. With a .198 ISO, he was one of 92 total players with an ISO of at least .195 since 2015 (min. 2000 plate appearances). All told, he had a .334 wOBA and 111 wRC+, making him 11% better than the average batter in this span.

Myers also plays a solid first base. He only played 197 innings there this year, playing the position a lot more down the stretch after the Padres acquired Juan Soto and traded Eric Hosmer. He had +1 Defensive Runs Saved and +1 Outs Above Average, as well as a UZR/150 of +4.3. Overall, he’s been a decent defender at the corner infield position, having +10 DRS, +2 OAA, and a UZR/150 of just -.2 throughout 3060 career innings.

Signing Myers to play first base also lets the Pittsburgh Pirates utilize Nuñez at DH and let Endy Rodriguez settle in behind the dish. But in the event they do want to give someone a rest at DH and let Nuñez play the field or give Rodriguez a day at first base to rest his knees, Myers can play outfield. He’s not as good of a defender in the grass as he is at first base, but he can play the corner outfield positions to an average degree. Most of his poor defensive metrics come from the handful of times he’s had to man centerfield.

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Myers is a bit older, with next year being his age-32 campaign. He does come with some injury concerns, but he could easily give the Pirates at least 110-120 games and 450-500 plate appearances. Although Myers isn’t an all-star, he’s a steady performer at the plate. You know what you’re getting with Myers. He’s a 105-110 wRC+ bat who can provide 15+ home runs with solid defense at first base. I’d argue that he’s one of the more underrated free agents on the market this year.