It’s happening a year later than they would have liked, but Wil Myers has become a star for the San Diego Padres in 2016.

Given the state of things in San Diego, though, all this does is raise the question of when Myers will be starring on a different team.

The Padres are not only terrible, but are clearly tanking. Their big effort to strike it big in 2015 ended in failure, and they didn’t bother to keep the dream alive. The departures of Ian Kennedy, Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel over the winter signaled the start of a full-on rebuild.

Now the Padres are in last place in the NL West at 33-45, and their rebuild has already led to James Shields’ exit via the trade market. If they were willing to get what they could for Shields while they could, their best trade chip may indeed be next.

That’s Myers, of course. The 25-year-old has an .874 OPS and a career-high 18 home runs through 76 games. Throw in 11 stolen bases and strong defense, and you get a guy WAR and FanGraphs WAR agreed was an elite first baseman entering play Tuesday:

This is a departure from what Myers did the last two years. In 2014 with the Tampa Bay Rays and in 2015 with the Padres, he OPS’d just .675 with 14 home runs across 147 games. He seemed to be damaged goods, hurting his right wrist in 2014 and then having surgery on his left wrist in 2015.

However, this is also the kind of player Myers teased he could be when he won American League Rookie of the Year in 2013. He had an .831 OPS and 13 homers in only 88 games that year, numbers that were in tune with what he did as Baseball America‘s Minor League Player of the Year in 2012.

Regaining his health always had to be Myers’ first step toward reclaiming his former glory. Not surprisingly, he’s taken that step. He was optimistic in an interview with Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune just before Opening Day and was singing the same tune a few weeks later, according to Dennis Lin, also of the Union-Tribune:

One of the biggest things is really finding that feel and finding what it was like to be healthy and be good at the same time. I’ve been so far removed from that, since 2013 and at the beginning of last year, but I’m finally feeling that again. … I’ve started to find that approach, I’ve started to find that confidence again, I’ve started to find that reassurance that I can play at a high level in the big leagues.

A mechanical change could have just as much to do with Myers’ turnaround as having his health and confidence in a better place. As AJ Cassavell of reported, hitting coach Alan Zinter is having Myers start his load “a split-second earlier.” As a result, some key weaknesses have disappeared.

“He’s had that opposite-field power all year,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “But now he’s got the ability to cover all pitches at this point in time. He looks great.”

Myers is indeed doing a better job of going the other way, entering Tuesday with a career-low 36.5 pull percentage. According to Baseball Savant, this is the first time in his career that he’s hit pitches in and pitches away with equal efficiency:

Those are the details, but the big picture is simple. Myers was a talented young player who got bad for good reasons and is now good again for good reasons. Factor in the Padres’ dire situation and the sign that says they’re open for business, and the trade winds swirling around Myers haven’t come out of nowhere.

There’s no guarantee Myers will actually go anywhere. Judging from what Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported recently, the Padres aren’t desperate to flip him:

At Today’s Knuckleball, Jon Heyman added Myers figures to stay in San Diego at least through the All-Star break. That way he can be the local hero in a game played at Petco Park.

Beyond that, there’s the obvious reason the Padres aren’t in a hurry to deal Myers. In Heyman’s words: “Another reason that they want to hold on to him altogether is that he’s emerging as the slugging star they’d hoped.”

Find a place to wedge in “young and controllable,” and the gist is that much easier to get. Like all rebuilding teams, the Padres need to accumulate as much young and controllable talent as they can. At 25 and with three years of club control beyond 2016, Myers fits the bill.

Myers is the only Padre who does, though. The young talent they’re looking to build a winner around is still mostly in the minors, and there’s not enough of it for the Padres to plan on having built a winner before Myers’ time with the club runs out. At the start of 2016, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and all had the San Diego farm system ranked in the bottom half of the league.

A Myers trade could fix that. According to Heyman, the Padres have four A-grade prospects in mind as his sticker price. Getting that return or something close to it on this summer’s market isn’t impossible.

As Aaron Gleeman highlighted at Baseball Prospectus, 2016 is shaping up to be a bad year for production at first base. The haves are feeling the effects just as much as the have-nots. Among the teams that could potentially be in the market for a first base upgrade are the New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Boston Red Sox. Whenever there are that many prospective suitors, the seeds for a bidding war are there.

Simply getting Myers as a quick fix isn’t the only reason teams could stay in the fray.

With this winter’s free-agent market due to feature few impact bats, Myers’ three extra years of controllability should look attractive. There are also the alternatives to consider. Jay Bruce and Ryan Braun look like impact trade chips for teams seeking bats. Ditto for Jonathan Lucroy. But none of those three offer much value beyond 2016. And if a team is looking strictly for a first base upgrade, the best option after Myers might be Chris Carter. He has more power than Myers, but that’s it.

For now, odds are the Padres will indeed hold on to Myers through the All-Star break. But after that, the August 1 trade deadline will be near. Trade winds that are only blowing now could start howling.

Come August 2, Myers could be donning new threads.


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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