The Extendables

It’s old news now, but both Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte were signed to contract extensions recently. By Section 2, Clause 4b of the internet’s manual on baseball writing, we’re still allowed to write about it.

Myers inked the bigger deal: six years and $83 million with an option for a seventh year, a contract which buys out three—and potentially four—of his would-be free agent years.

It’s a good deal in a basic, big picture sense. Myers is fun and young and the Padres have money to spend. The payroll over the next couple of years is going to sink to near-embarrassing levels, and even though this deal won’t technically do much to raise it (for now), it’s still a good way for Padres brass to show that they’ll continue to shell out money when necessary.

Myers had an interesting year in 2016. At times he was an offensive force, but at other times he was a black hole at this dish. I closed that linked article, which I wrote last year over at Baseball Prospectus, on a mostly positive note:

Of course, we always want more. While Myers is still a ways off from making Padres fans forget about Anthony Rizzo—or even Trea Turner—he’s also this close, seemingly, to having everything click. He’ll turn just 26 in December and he’s already shown the ability to adjust, and quickly—from a laughably bad center fielder in 2015 who posed no threat on the bases to a fine defensive first baseman with legit base running cred in 2016. His most important adjustment will come next, however, and we’ll see whether Myers can turn from a good hitter into a great one, fulfilling the last ounce of the wild expectations we placed on him.

That’s the thing about Myers last season. The bat really wasn’t that impressive, not for a first baseman in an increasingly power-heavy game. But Myers did a number of other things well. He stayed healthy for one, playing 157 games—10 more than he played in 2014 and 2015 combined. He played good defense, too, rating something like seven or eight runs better than average at first by most advanced defensive numbers. Defensive stats can be deceptive in small sample sizes, but at least Myers acquitted himself well enough in his debut season at the position. He also stole 28 bags in 34 attempts and ranked 10th in the majors in BP’s BRR—a catch-all base running statistic—right between noted speedsters Brett Gardner and Francisco Lindor.

Where he didn’t a year ago, Myers now has a strong foundation as a player. Instead of an out-of-place center fielder with injury concerns, he’s a good-glove first baseman with hidden value on the bases, and he’s healthy. He’s a good hitter, one or two leaps forward away from being a great one. The Padres are betting that he’ll at least remain a solid contributor through his prime. If he steps it up a notch as he enters his late 20s, it’s all gravy.

The Solarte deal isn’t as exciting for a couple of reasons.

One, it’s not as long or expensive. Solarte’s deal is for two years and $7.5 million, with a couple of option years tacked on. If both are picked up, the Padres will have bought out one year of Solarte’s free agency. It’s also not as exciting because Solarte doesn’t have the upside or prospect pedigree of Myers, even though he was quietly just as good as Myers at the plate last season.

Still, it’s a fine deal. As David Marver noted over at Gwynntelligence, there’s little that can go wrong here. Worst case, if Solarte struggles over the next couple of years, the Padres can simply decline on the option year(s) and move on. It’s a low-risk play, and it locks up a familiar fan favorite for the foreseeable future.

As a player, Solarte’s probably something of a league average guy at third base, somewhat stretched as an everyday regular there but still useful. He’d probably be better in more of a utility role, bouncing back and forth between third and second based on the match-up and the alignment of the sun. Either way, if he hits like he did last year (.286/.341/.467), he’ll work out fine just about anywhere. The main red flag with Solarte, as Marver noted, is that his K-rate spiked to a career-high 14.2 percent last season. If the power evaporates and the strikeout rate floats any higher, Solarte could quickly transform into an offensive liability.

Then again, maybe he reduces the whiffs and increases the power. Baseball’s weird.

In the end, both deals make perfectly fine sense. Sure, the Padres are in the midst of a rebuild, but it’s still important to have familiar players around, especially when they’re good players. Both Myers and Solarte have a shot to be major contributors on the next good Padres team.

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  • Billy Lybarger

    How confident are you that Myers can sustain a season of fairly high production? In your linked article at BP, you noted his abysmal stretch in August of ’16, but really his entire second half of ’16 was not very good. And it was pretty much horrible for a first baseman. I’m hoping the season full of work was his first foray into being a full time player and he has prepared for the long haul this season. But this team will be absolutely atrocious if Myers disappears for stretches at a time at home plate. I mean, yay! 1-1 in ’18, but really this team is going to need him to lead the youngsters in to a competitive team that magically appears in ’20.

    • ballybunion

      I personally have high hopes for Renfroe, Dickerson, and Hedges, and I even think Schimpf’s better glove at third and greater power (until proven otherwise) will make Solarte a premium pinch hitter.

      Myers isn’t appreciably older than the rest of this very young team, at least not old enough or experienced enough to be the leader. The real grizzled veterans are on the coaching staff, and that might be more important than having a field general.

      Considering that Renfroe, Margot, Asuaje, Hedges, Schimpf, and Dickerson all played together for at least part of last year on a championship El Paso team, and even Jankowski played with some of them in 2015, there’s the hope that they’ll jell into a cohesive positional unit quickly, obviating the need for a veteran leader to help them along.

      • Hedges turning into like a league average bat (or better) with the glove as advertised would be awesome. He’s kind of an underrated part of the rebuild, I think, with most of the focus going toward Myers and/or the younger prospects.

      • Pat

        It’s good to have hope, but those who believe in Schimpf are wandering in a desert and falling for the mirage. He’s not going to duplicate even the modest success he had last season. Pitchers will adjust to him, and he will turn into the pumpkin that essentially all 28 year old rookies are. If Hedges and Renfroe develop into solid major league players, that would be huge, and more than enough success for the next couple of seasons! Heck, if even one of them does, that will be great.

    • I have plenty of confidence that he can at least repeat last year. If he’s a 110-115 OPS+ first baseman, with a solid glove and good base running, that’s okay. I still think there’s more in the bat, but we’ll see.

      And, yeah, I don’t think the results in 2017 really matter. The offense should/could be okay or even pretty good, if things break right, but the pitching will likely be awful (no news there). But I’m optimistic about like 2019 and 2020, and Myers will hopefully be a productive veteran by then.