You might imagine my surprise Sunday morning, when National Public Radio turned into a discussion of "Super 2" arbitration rights and a powerful young hitter named Wil Myers. For more than three minutes, Mike Pesca completely confused the host, but then it's a confusing thing. And then Pesca got deep into the weeds:
So in a real-life example, the L.A. Dodgers, a rich team, they don't really care about the consequences that much, of when they have to pay players. They call up this great player, Yasiel Puig, makes a huge impact, he's setting the world on fire in L.A. Had like four home runs in his first five days, and this is how it should be.
You have this other team, the Tampa Bay Rays, you know, the poorest team in the league just about, one of the poorest. They have this great player named Wil Myers. Wil Myers just hit the game-winning home run yesterday for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. There's only one reason why Wil Myers is not in the major leagues: It's 'cause the Tampa Bay RAys don't want to have to pay him. They figure if they drag their feet for a while, they can get by without Wil Myers.
But the Rays really need Wil Myers. They went through this a couple of years ago with Desmond Jennings. And all their fans were saying, "C'mon, bite the bullet. Call up Wil Myers!" ... There's penny-wise and pound-foolish, if I'm getting that right, and I think the Rays need to call up Wil Myers.
For the record, two years ago the Rays didn't bring up Desmond Jennings until late July, presumably well past the Super 2 cutoff. But otherwise, this situation is quite similar. In both years, the Rays' top hitting prospect was a right-handed-hitting outfielder stowed away in Durham while left-handed hitters with the big club were getting too many at-bats against left-handed pitchers.
Two years ago, it was Jennings squirreled away in the minors while Sam Fuld and Johnny Damon were playing too much. This year, it's Myers in the minors while Luke Scott and Kelly Johnson are playing too much.*
Two years ago, as you might recall, the Rays squeaked into the playoffs on the last day of the season. So waiting so long to call up Jennings didn't hurt them ... but it was a close-run thing, for sure. This year ... well, it's hard to say, isn't it? A lot of wild things are going to happen between now and October. The Rays are in fourth place, but they're only five games out of first place. Honestly, I won't be shocked if they wind up in first place ... or last place.
Whatever they do, it does seem they'll be doing it with Wil Myers; the Rays are biting the bullet, right on cue:
"We felt like now was the right time," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations. "He made some real adjustments in the last six weeks and that really stood out to us. It was something we were monitoring very closely."
After hitting .286 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs in 64 games at Triple-A Durham, Myers will start at least one of two games at Boston on Tuesday, manager Joe Maddon said.
"He's going to play in the outfield and we'll probably hit him lower in the batting order to begin, just to take a little pressure off of him," Maddon said. "We'll try not to place the expectations too high, although I know it's going to come from outside, not from within. He's another one of our players. I'm going to try to ease him into the whole thing."
Okay, so was this really just a naked ploy to delay Myers' arbitration rights for a year, and potentially save a few million bucks on the long-term contract that Myers will inevitably be offered?
In Myers' first 41 games this season, he batted .244/.341/.372. Yes, arbitary endpoint. But for the first seven weeks of the season, Myers did absolutely nothing to force management's hand.
In three-plus weeks and 22 games since, Myers has been tremendous: .347/.379/.747, with 10 homers and 32 RBI. When a hot prospect hits 10 home runs in 22 games, your natural impulse is to assume that he's ready for the next step. Of course, after his tremendous 2012 season in Triple-A, we might have assumed he was ready for the next step then. What seems likely is that this season's first seven weeks were a blip, or nearly a blip.
I believe that Myers made an adjustment at some point this spring. Hitters make adjustments all the time. I don't believe that he's suddenly become a fundamentally different hitter. I believe there's something to this:
Congrats to Wil Myers, who totally made real adjustments to become big league ready right after the Super 2 cutoff.— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) June 17, 2013
Here's the thing ... On paper, the Rays would have been better with Myers on their Opening Day roster. In the event, though, they wouldn't have been. Not much, anyway. If you believe his Triple-A season, it's really not until the last few weeks that he actually would have helped the big club.
I'm not sure how much he's going to help them now. He might not hit well enough to mash against right-handers, and he's probably a liability in the outfield. Oh, and did you notice that small spread between his batting averages and his on-base percentages? Myers used to draw a lot of walks, but the Royals beat his patience out of him before they traded him. It's not yet known if he'll routinely be victimized by major-league pitchers for a while.
The takeaway from all this? The Rays pay a great deal of attention to service time, because they're running a tight ship down there. And Mike Pesca loves to say Wil Myers a lot.