From the moment the Tampa Bay Rays acquired him, the comparisons between Wil Myers and Rays star Evan Longoria were inevitable. He was not only the Rays’ latest power-hitting top prospect, but also featured a stance similar to Longoria and was set to debut at the same age of 22 years old. As if to stretch the parallels just a little bit farther, Myers even got into 15 games at third base in the Kansas City Royals organization in 2012. Then when he made his major league debut, Myers immediately made a Longoria-esque impact, hitting to a .293/.354/.478 line (132 OPS+) with 23 doubles, 13 homers, and 53 RBI in 373 plate appearances on his way to the AL Rookie of the Year award. There was just one thing missing: an extension. Longoria officially agreed to an extension just six games into his major league career, signing for six years and $17.5 million. Is Myers going to follow suit?
A long-term deal for Wil Myers would certainly come with some risk. He struck out 91 times against 33 walks in his debut and needs continued improvement versus the quality secondary pitches he goes up against in the major leagues. However, his upside at the plate far outweighs the uncertainty and an extension is worth exploring. Is such a contract a possibility? The good news is that Myers’ agent is not Scott Boras but instead Jeff Berry of CAA. He is not philosophically opposed to an extension if the Rays offer him the right number. But unlike fellow Rays top prospects Longoria and Matt Moore, Myers already has a huge season under his belt before any extension would kick in, and that is going to significantly increase his demands. The Rays have extended one player in a similar service time situation before–Wade Davis before the 2011 season–but Davis was a clearly inferior player. It is going to take far more than the $12.6 million they gave Davis to lock Myers up for the foreseeable future. To figure out what a more realistic price, let’s look at the extensions given to two players with similar service time and performance: Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs and Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Rizzo spent his 2012 rookie year at 22 years of age just like Myers right after he was also a major trade acquisition. Most importantly, Rizzo’s 2012 numbers were as close to Myers’ as we are ever going to find. Rizzo hit to a .285/.342/.463 line (116 OPS+) with 15 doubles, 15 homers, and 48 RBI in 87 games and 368 plate appearances. Goldschmidt was two years older in 2012, but he also put up similar a similar slash line to Myers’ rookie year, managing a .286/.359/.490 line (126 OPS+) although in 587 plate appearances. For his efforts, Rizzo received a seven-year, $41 million extension with options for two more years, while Goldschmidt agreed to five years and $32.05 million beginning in 2014. How would Myers’ potential deal compare to those contracts?
Myers’ advantages over Rizzo and Goldschmidt are that he showed better offense than either of them, features more power, and plays a higher position on the defensive spectrum. But the gap between Myers and them narrows quite when we take into account that Rizzo is a much better defender who cracked the major leagues a year earlier (albeit with poor results) and Goldschmidt put up his numbers in a significantly bigger sample size and has a dimension to his game that Myers lacks: speed. At the end of the day, Myers is at roughly the same level as Rizzo and Goldschmidt were following their first full seasons in the major leagues, and it is going to be his circumstances that underlie the construction of his extension as much as anything else.
One interesting thing to notice in the contracts that Goldschmidt and Rizzo received is that the annual value is not all that different despite the difference in playing time and performance. Goldschmidt received $6.41 million while Rizzo was just behind at $5.86 million. Goldschmidt’s extension is truly superior to Rizzo’s mainly because he signed off two free agent years instead of three. Why was the gap in annual salary so small? The answer is that Rizzo was set to be Super Two eligible following the 2014 season while Goldschmidt was not, and his contract had to reflect that. Rizzo will make $5 million in 2015 while Goldschmidt will not get to that level until 2016. Myers will not be Super Two eligible, so his deal automatically becomes smaller.
Any Myers extension would feature relatively small values the next three years before jumping in value the subsequent three years. The Rays would not sign him long-term without buying out at least one of his free agent years, so we are talking a seven-year deal at the minimum. For the first three years, Myers would make say $520,000 (his salary for this year), $1.25 million, and $1.75 million before jumping to $5 million, $7 million, and $9 million. Then the Rays could pay $12 million for his first free agent year with a $15 million option for his second. That would make his deal 7 years and $36.52 million with an option for one more season. That is not as team-friendly of a deal as the Rays like to do. Myers would make $5.25 million a season, more than any Rays extension to a player under 28 years old aside from Longoria’s second deal and Scott Kazmir‘s ill-fated contract. If the Rays are going to extend Wil Myers, they are going to have to leave their comfort zone one more time this offseason. But to get an additional year of a talent like Wil Myers, that type of contract is worth the risk.
The question at the end of the day is going to be whether Wil Myers and his agent are willing to agree to an extension. Myers has to weigh the value of entering free agency at age 29 instead of 30 or 31 versus the risk that his career may not go as planned. With that in mind, the Tampa Bay Rays are not going to get Myers on a super team-friendly deal that gives them years of team control for pennies on the dollar. They are going to have to pay Myers real money and take the chance that he develops as they hope. But if there is anyone to bet on, it is the transcendent talent who has the ability to be one of the core players of your team for years to come. The Rays should make Wil Myers a legitimate offer and see if a deal can come together.