The Reds awoke from their offseason slumber on Thursday, announcing they’ve signed first baseman and outfielder Wil Myers to a one-year, $7.5 million deal with a mutual option for the 2024 season.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the deal could be worth up to $9.5 million if Myers hits certain playing time incentives or gets traded in 2023. The Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale sheds further light on the bonuses, reporting that Myers can earn up to $1.5 million in incentives and will receive $500,000 if he is traded.
Myers, who turned 32 earlier this month, has hit .254/.329/.442 with a 111 OPS+ and 110 wRC+ in over 4,000 plate appearances across 10 MLB seasons with the Rays and Padres. In 2022, Myers played in just 77 games with San Diego as he missed a couple of weeks due to a right thumb contusion and nearly two months because of right knee inflammation. Still, he hit a respectable .261/.315/.398 with seven home runs and a 104 wRC+ when healthy. Myers was key contributor to the Padres’ playoff push, hitting .285/.349/.482 with a 137 wRC+ after returning from the injured list on August 1. Six of his seven home runs on the season came during that stretch.
There are some concerns with Myers at the plate, however. His strikeout rate has risen in each of the last two seasons, hitting 30.1% in 2022. Historically a player with an above-average walk rate, he also posted a career worst in that department last season (7.3%). Myers’ average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, which routinely ranked in the top 30% of the league at his peak, have also fallen to roughly average in each of the last two seasons.
The Reds are hoping Myers can rebound in a hitter-friendly park. Great American Ball Park and Petco Park are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Statcast park factors. Cincinnati ranks as the second-most hitter-friendly park, while San Diego is second-from-last.
Myers hasn’t performed noticeably worse in Petco Park overall in his career. In fact, he’s been slightly better in San Diego (113 wRC+ there, 107 wRC+ everywhere else). But his home-road splits were massive in 2022.
- Home: .209/.284/.304, 75 wRC+
- Road: .309/.345/.485, 131 wRC+
Maybe that amounts to nothing but noise in a small sample. His .422 batting average on balls in play on the road, along with his career numbers at Petco Park, would certainly point toward that. Still, it’s worth at least noting that Myers may be able to put up bigger numbers in GABP.
Another split to note with Myers is that he has consistently mashed left-handed pitching in his career (119 wRC+). That was no different in 2022 (130 wRC+). The Reds are hoping he rounds back into form versus right-handed pitchers. Myers has never crushed righties, but he has consistently been above average against them for most of his career.
Myers has stolen as many as 28 bases in a season, but he hasn’t reached double digits since 2019. That being said, he’s still quick. Even while dealing with knee inflammation, his sprint speed ranked in the 73rd percentile in 2022.
Per The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans, general manager Nick Krall plans for Myers to “mostly” play right field. The flexibility Myers brings should be noted, however. He’s played across the diamond in his professional career, logging playing time in both corner outfield spots, first base, center field, and third base. In limited playing time during the 2022 season, Myers spent most of his time at right field (306 innings) and first base (194 innings).
Even if Myers starts in right field on most days, he should get opportunities at first base. Joey Votto is recovering from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and bicep in his left arm, and there’s a chance he won’t be 100% to start the 2023 season. Even if Votto is ready, he’s 39 years old and needs more time off than he did in his younger days. Myers could also fill in at left field when the need arises.
Defensive metrics are all over the board on Myers. As a right fielder, Myers was worth six defensive runs saved in 2022; however, he was at -10 the previous two years combined, a much larger sample. Statcast paints a more even picture of Myers’ defense in right field, ranking him as slightly above average over the last four seasons at three outs above average. He’s been roughly average at first base, but he ranked as above average in two seasons where he primarily played the position (10 DRS, 2 OAA in 2016 and 2017).
Despite a decline at the plate and some durability concerns, there’s not much doubt that Myers is an upgrade over the Reds’ other outfield options. Even in a down year where he missed almost 100 games, Myers still had a higher bWAR (1.2) than the combination of Nick Senzel, T.J. Friedl, Jake Fraley, Stuart Fairchild, and Nick Solak (0.1) and was only slightly behind in fWAR (1.0 vs. 1.6). Myers also hits lefty pitching well, a massive weakness of the 2022 team that could very well be problematic again in 2023 given the current roster.
With Myers manning right field, the other five outfielders on the roster will be left to battle for playing time in left and center field. Fraley will almost certainly start in left field against right-handed pitchers, but there are question marks beyond that. Fairchild or Solak, both right-handed hitters, could play left field when opponents send southpaws to the mound.
Senzel has been the starting center fielder when healthy, but he hasn’t hit since his shoulder injury in 2019 and could move to a utility role. Fairchild primarily played center field in the minor leagues and has looked good at the position in limited playing time at the MLB level. Friedl may get the starting nod in center field against right-handed pitchers if he can prove his hot hitting in the second half of 2022 wasn’t a fluke.
Ultimately, Myers is another temporary player as the Reds continue to rebuild. If he has a resurgent year in Great American Ball Park, the Reds will almost certainly look to flip him to a contending team in July and add another prospect to their impressive farm system.
Featured photo by Arturo Pardavila III