Wil Myers to San Diego in Three Team Deal

After making the biggest splash of the Winter Meeting with the trade of the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp for catcher Yasmani Grandal and minor leaguers RHP Joe Wieland and RHP Zach Eflin, San Diego’s A.J. Preller, the second youngest General Manager in baseball, made his next big move in acquiring Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers in a three-way trade with the Washington Nationals.

San Diego sent C Rene Rivera, RHP Joe Ross, RHP Burch Smith, SS Trea Turner and 1B Jake Bauers to Tampa in exchange for Myers, C Ryan Hanigan and minor leaguers RHP Gerardo Reyes and LHP Jose Castillo. The Rays then sent Ross and Turner, who is the player-to-be named later and cannot play until June 14 of next year because no player can be traded until they have at least one year in professional baseball, to the Washington Nationals for OF Steven Souza and LHP Travis Ott.

The Padres, who had the worst offense by far in baseball in 2014, drastically improved their team with right-handed power that plays better in pitcher-friendly PETCO, than batters who hit from the left side.

While Kemp has the big salary, which required the Dodgers to send back $32 million in order to complete the deal, in order to get Myers the Padres had to give up two Top 10 prospects in RHP Joe Ross and SS Trea Turner and a pair of players that would probably also rate in the Top 25 in RHP Burch Smith and 1B Jake Bauers.

Why so high?

Because of the way that major league baseball’s salary structure works, a player must wait for six full seasons, the last three of which they are eligible for salary arbitration, before they can test free agency. The Padres will have control of Myers until 2015 for at generally below market rates, which is the reason he demanded such a high return.

Padres: More so than prospects, the Padres needed some veteran hitters for the middle of their order and in Kemp and Myers, 24, they have their two sluggers. Additionally, the team may not be done as they have been linked to Reds’ outfielder Jay Bruce, who can also play first base.

Myers is coming off a season that saw his batting average sink to .222/.294/.320 after posting a big year in 2013 at .293/.354/.478. Additionally in 2013 he was considered one of the Top 5 prospects in the game. In short if he's healthy, he has a chance to be one of the better players in the game.

But it wasn’t cheap.

According to Baseball America’s draft statistics the Padres’ signed Joe Ross for $2.75 million in 2011 and Trea Turner for $2.9 million in 2014. Throw in the signing bonuses of Smith and Bauers and San Diego sent just under $6.5 million out to get Myers and all four players have more than a fair chance of becoming solid major league players.

C Ryan Hanigan is 34 and coming off of two injury filled years but posted a .359 on-base percentage in Cincinnati before he was traded to Tampa Bay in 2013 where he hit .218/.318/.324. Essentially, both Hanigan and Tim Federowicz, a catcher that was acquired in the Kemp trade, are essentially place holders for top catching prospect catcher Austin Hedges.

If Hedges will hit this season in either AAA El Paso or AA San Antonio is another question.

The final two pieces are low minors pitchers Reyes and Castillo. Castillo, 18, got $1.55 million from the Rays out of Venezuela in 2013 according to FanGraphs Kiley McDaniel and has some projection with a low-90s fastball and has yet to pitch above the Complex Leagues.

Reyes is a 5’11” right-hander out of Mexico who pitched last year for Hudson Valley, an advanced short-season league. According to McDaniel, Reyes is seen more as a relief prospect.

Although the Padres paid a high price, they have been able to acquire two top veteran bats - albeit with some significant questions about their health - without giving up any of their top pitchers or what will generally be agreed upon as their top three prospects in the system; RHP Matt Wisler, Hedges and OF Hunter Renfroe.

However they now have six outfielders on their big league roster, including Carlos Quentin, who is guaranteed $8 million in 2015 and a $3 million buyout in 2016 with no place to play. Additionally, he hasn’t played in 100 games since 2011 and if they can find a trade partner will have to eat nearly all of the money to get him off of the roster.

A.J. is off to a strong start, but he is far from finished.

Rays: Tampa is one everyone is asking what do they know that we don’t? It’s still unclear why they would be willing to replace Wil Myers with a player that is nearly two years older than him and with only 21 games of big league experience.

Souza was the MVP of AAA International League, where he hit .350/.432/.590 and many news sites had reported that he was their main off-season target. Most of Tampa’s minor league teams play in the same leagues as Washington’s, so the Rays have seen him in all eight of his minor league years and should know what they are getting.

Rivera, 30, who until a couple years ago was hampered with the dreaded “organizational” player label had a true breakout season in San Diego that saw him beat out the more highly regarded Grandal and draw raves from his pitching staff.

He came on in the second half with his bat and should be an upgrade for Tampa on both sides of the plate.

Bauers just turned 19 in early October and last year he was one of the better hitters in the Midwest League before slumping towards the end of the season. A good hitter with the ability to drive the ball to all fields he is a better defender than given credit for. He should begin the year at High-A Charlotte.

Smith, 24, was injured for most of the year, but last season he was considered one of the Padres’ better pitching prospects with a big, but straight fastball and a developing change-up and curve. Right now, he is more of a bullpen arm than a starter because of lack of command of his secondary pitches.

Ott, 22, is tall lefty who pitched in short-season Auburn and High-A for the Nationals last year. Right now, he’s much more projection than performance.

Nationals: If anyone “won” the trade its the Nationals. They gave up, depending on whom you read, either their fourth or fifth outfielder for a pair of Top 10 prospects from a system that will be ranked in the top third of baseball.

Although Turner will not be able to play until June 14, if last year is any indication of his talent he should rise quickly and unimpeded in Washington’s system - which is devoid of any real shortstop. With current shortstop Ian Desmond a possible candidate to leave after this season, Turner provides an excellent backup plan.

Scouts were mixed on Turner, 21, coming out of North Carolina State, but he hit .369/.447/.529 in Low-A Fort Wayne and stole 14 bases and drew raves for his steadiness in the field.

RHP Joe Ross had his best season with the Padres since he was drafted in 2011 making it to AA San Antonio at the end of the year. He has big time stuff, now its just about the consistency of his secondary pitches. After 2012 first round pick Max Fried, a high school teammate of Nationals’ uber-prospect Lucas Giolitio, Ross may have had the most upside of any pitcher in the Padres’ system.

In essence, Washington’s General Manager Mike Rizzo was able to get two first round talents for a backup outfielder.

Not a bad days work.

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