There is no denying anymore that Wil Myers is ready for the major leagues. Entering his game on Sunday afternoon, Myers had a .286/.359/.515 line with 12 homers, 12 doubles, 52 RBI, and 6 stolen bases in 57 games and 262 plate appearances, and lately he has been absolutely unreal. In his last 16 games, Myers has a .380/.403/.831 line with 8 homers, 6 doubles, and 27 RBI. And Myers is heating up at exactly the right time. The Super Two deadline is going to pass ove the next few days, meaning that the Rays will no longer have any financial reason to keep Myers in the minors, and Jim Bowden tweeted that the Rays are expected to call up Wil Myers in the next ten days. But there’s one critical issue remaining: where will Myers play?
The Rays’ lineup has been unbelievable all season, but adding another formidable bat in Myers would only make it better. However, before they make that happen, they have to figure out who he will replace. The Rays’ outfield is currently full with Desmond Jennings, Kelly Johnson, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, and Sam Fuld all seeing time. Obviously the Rays could demote Rodriguez or designate Fuld for assignment, but the Rays are only going to call Myers up to be a regular and the only at-bats they have available for him are against left-handed pitching. So what are the Rays options? Let’s take a look.
The Rays could cut Luke Scott and move Joyce and Rodriguez into a platoon at DH. Scott is owed $2.75 million dollars this season nothing to scoff at but not a crippling amount, especially considering he has just a .224/.336/.357 line (95 OPS+) in 119 plate appearances on the season. But are the Rays really going to give up on Scott so quickly? Scott is showing much better plate discipline this season, drawing 16 walks compared to 21 all of last season while striking out just 26 times, and you have to hope that his patience will lead to better quality contact if the Rays just give him more time. If the Rays lose Scott, they may be bringing up Myers but could lose a valuable piece of their lineup in the process.
If there is one thing the Rays are fairly sure of by now, it’s that Matt Joycecan’t hit lefties. Joyce is still a valuable hitter, but could Myers knocking on the door prompt the Rays to finally have enough with Joyce’s limitations both at the plate and defensively and consider trading him away? Joyce has played well so far this year, hitting to a .249/.330/.474 line (122 OPS+) with 10 home runs, and his trade value might be high enough for the Rays to net a good prospect in exchange for him. Joyce could give another team a left-handed power bat with two more years under team control, and while his inability to hit lefties is frustrating, he could be a player in demand. Especially with the right prospect coming back, trading away Joyce for Myers could be an extremely beneficial move as the Rays would be exchanging a full-time player for a platoon guy and get themselves a piece for the future in the process. But if releasing Scott didn’t make much sense, how could the Rays possibly trade a player who’s doing well for them just to call up Myers?
Another option could be to starting playing Desmond Jennings less against right-handed pitching. Jennings has just a .237/.296/.382 line against righties this season after just a .245/.306/.385 mark last year, and while Jennings’ power, speed, and defense are tantalizing, maybe it’s time for the Rays to move on. Replacing Jennings against right-handed pitching and Joyce against lefties, suddenly the Rays would have regular at-bats for Myers taken care of. But the issue there would be that Myers would have to play centerfield. Myers does have 100 games of professional experience at the position, but the defensive downgrade from Jennings to Myers would be astronomical and could very well cancel out much of the offensive difference. And while we’re at it, we might as well make the same point we made before: are the Rays going to give up on Jennings already?
Aside from that, the Rays could try to get creative and frantically move other players around to get Myers at-bats. Integrating Myers into the lineup versus lefties is pretty simple and all they have to do is get him into games versus righties. Maybe what the Rays could do is have Myers take the place of not just Jennings but also Yunel Escobar (.612 OPS against righties) and Luke Scott (.627) when they take on right-handed pitchers, allowing everyone to still get a whole bunch of at-bats but also get Myers at-bats on a daily basis. When Escobar sits, Ben Zobrist could move to shortstop with Kelly Johnson at second base to get Myers a spot in the outfield, and when Scott is out, Joyce could shift to DH. The issue with Myers playing centerfield would still be a valid point, but it would only be coming a third of the time against right-handed pitching, and that could be infrequent enough for the Rays to tolerate it. It would be quite complicated, but there is playing time available to Myers if the Rays look hard enough.
It always seems like these situations just work themselves out. Someone will get hurt and then Myers’ path to the major leagues will become clear. But even if that doesn’t happen, the Rays have the ability to get Myers the playing time he needs in the major leagues whenever they want. Wil Myers is pushing hard for a big league spot and it won’t be long before the Rays give it to him. Whether getting him at-bats will be easy to discern or a difficult task for Joe Maddon every game, it’s happening now and the Rays will just adjust accordingly when he officially comes up.