The Boston Red Sox are reportedly discussing a potential trade for Wil Myers with the Padres offering young players or prospects to pawn part of his salary.
Did the Boston Red Sox make a salary-dump trade only to turn around and help another organization complete one of their own? It appears they are at least considering the idea. According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Red Sox have renewed discussions with the San Diego Padres involving Wil Myers.
The Padres have been trying to pawn off the Myers contract ever since they began their failed negotiations for Mookie Betts. San Diego insisted on the Red Sox taking back the $61 million owed to Myers over the next three years to offset the $27 million salary Betts will earn this season. They were offering an appealing package of prospects but the Red Sox pivoted toward maximizing their financial freedom in a trade sending Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers instead.
Trading for Betts is no longer an option but San Diego still has interest in unloading Myers. Since the Padres wouldn’t be receiving an expensive contract in return, the deal now seems contingent on the Red Sox agreeing to pay half of the remaining salary owed to Myers.
These discussions aren’t centered on any legitimate interest in Myers. The 29-year-old has vastly under-performed since his lone All-Star campaign, hitting .244 with a .768 OPS over the last three years. He was worth a dismal -0.3 WAR last season. This is a pure salary dump. Boston would be using a portion of the payroll space they carved out in the Dodgers deal to absorb a bad contract, for which the Padres would reward them with appealing young players or prospects.
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Right-handed pitcher Cal Quantrill is the central piece being offered by the Padres, according to the report. Quantrill was 6-8 with a 5.16 ERA and 7.8 K/9 in an underwhelming rookie season but the 8th overall pick in the 2016 draft was the No. 8 pitching prospect in the Padres organization prior to last season.
Catcher Luis Campusano and infielder Gabriel Arias are mentioned in the report as prospects who potentially could be included in the deal. Campusano is rated as the fourth best catching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline and No. 50 overall. He was one of the assets Boston was rumored to be enamored with during the last round of trade discussions.
Many fans were outraged by the underwhelming haul the Red Sox received for Betts. Moving half of David Price‘s contract in the deal limited what the Dodgers were willing to surrender. Using a portion of those payroll savings to essentially buy more assets from the Padres makes this pill slightly easier to swallow.
Think of it as if the Padres were looped into a three-team deal. Boston is basically trading Betts and Price for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, Connor Wong, Myers, Quantrill plus Campusano or Arias. That’s a bigger haul than they would have received for Betts alone and they save some money by swapping Price for Myers.
Clogging the payroll with the Myers contract through 2022 isn’t ideal but the Red Sox can take on his salary this year while remaining below the Collective Bargaining Tax threshold. If the goal was to reset the penalties this year before reverting to their free-spending ways then they may not be worried about their payroll for the next two seasons. Myers would fall off the books just in time to reset again before the harsh third-time offender penalties would kick in.
The structure of Myers’ heavily back-loaded contract makes the financial burden minimal for tax purposes. The Padres want to avoid paying him $22.5 million in each of the next three years but his average annual value is what matters for tax purposes. Any money that San Diego sends to Boston in the deal gets taken off the CBT number, meaning if they cover half his salary by sending approximately $30 million then Myers counts for only about $3.8 million per year against the tax.
The modest tax hit makes the Myers deal more palatable and there’s a chance he could revitalize his career by escaping pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Even if he’s a bust, absorbing his salary is a small price to pay for a top-50 prospect and a potential middle of the rotation starter.
The Red Sox have drawn the ire of a frustrated fan base by slashing payroll but using their deep pockets to restock the farm system while still staying under the tax is a wise strategy for a big market team.