Sunday, June 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

It's clear, Rays: Myers needs minors

PORT CHARLOTTE

Someday he will rattle baseballs off the catwalks inside Tropicana Field. Someday he will knock dents in the Green Monster. Someday he will bat cleanup and strike fear in the hearts and minds of Yankees pitchers.

Someday he will be a star.

But not today.

Today, Wil Myers, 22, remains a future star, the emphasis being on "future.''

As for today? Well, today — one day before the Rays' first game of the spring — would be the perfect day for the Rays to make this announcement:

Wil Myers will start the regular season in the minors.

The Rays aren't going to say that. They can't. Not now. They aren't going to sour Myers' spring by removing the carrot that gives him a reason to get up every morning.

And most of you probably would hate it if the Rays made such an announcement. After all, they traded James Shields for this kid. If he's not ready to help the Rays win now, what was the point of giving up one of the better pitchers in baseball?

But saying that Myers will start the season in Triple-A Durham would be the smart thing to do. Truth be told, the minors is probably where Myers belongs and where he is going to end up anyway. Here's why it makes sense to make a decision on Myers now.

Spring training isn't a great evaluator

The Rays need more than a month of exhibition games to truly evaluate Myers' time­table for the majors, and they don't need everyone fooled by a good spring.

Myers could hit .750 in the spring and it really wouldn't prove anything. Maybe half the pitchers Myers will face are minor-leaguers themselves. The other half might be working on their deficiencies. These are not real games. As old Rays skipper Lou Piniella used to say, there's a big difference between hitting in the spring and hitting in the "double-decker stadiums of the regular season.''

Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "Spring training performances are really very deceiving.''

It takes pressure off Myers and the Rays

Myers' objective this spring should be about learning the Rays' way, improving his weaknesses, simply becoming a better player.

The Rays' objective this spring is to get to know Myers, to watch how he fits in and how hard he works, to see how he acts when things are going well and, more importantly, how he reacts when things are not.

"It's hard to get all of that out of camp,'' Maddon said.

Perhaps these goals could be met if the distraction of whether or not Myers was going to make the team was removed immediately.

Let's not forget that the Rays really don't know Myers that well. He didn't grow up in this organization like Evan Longoria and David Price — two stars who, if you remember, spent a little extra time in the minors.

The Rays are still learning what they have in Myers and studying him in the minors for a couple of months would be a good education.

It resists the temptation to rush him

If Myers has an exceptional spring, the urge to keep him might be too hard to resist. Yes, he was the minor-league player of the year in 2012 and, yes, the Rays gave up an awful lot to get him. But that doesn't make him major-league ready. He has played only 99 games in Triple A and struck out 98 times. The worst thing that could happen is to keep him with the big club based on a few spring at-bats, watch him struggle in April and then be forced to ship him back to the minors for more seasoning.

"Young players like that, for me, a lot of times, do well by going back to the minor leagues early and then showing up whenever everything is clicking as opposed to coming up and trying to battle through expectations,'' Maddon said. "Players like that who can be really special, you don't want to mess up on the timing of this thing. I'd rather be just a little bit too late than a little bit too early.''

It makes it about baseball instead of business

Look, there's no way around this: sending Myers to the minors delays the start of his major-league clock and his chance at arbitration and free agency. Wouldn't it be best to have Myers for a half-season now at age 22 and a full season when he is in his prime at age 29? Isn't that better than having him for a full season now when he is still raw and not at all when he is a superstar at 29?

Like it or not, the Rays still must consider finances in everything they do.

If the Rays wait to make a decision on Myers and he tears it up in the spring and he still is sent back to Durham, even if it is for baseball reasons, fans will complain about the organization's lack of commitment. Making a decision now could take the focus off the money.

Bottom line

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says the decision on Myers will be up to executive vice president Andrew Friedman and Maddon. Myers says he respects whatever the Rays decide. Maddon says nothing has been decided, that Myers will be given every opportunity to make the club, and the Rays will just "know'' when his time has come.

Here's the bottom line: Unless the Rays are overwhelmed by injuries and/or Myers has the greatest spring training ever, he likely will start the season in the minors. Wouldn't it be better to just decide that now? That way Myers can use the spring to become the best player he can be and the Rays can use it to put together the best team they can. Don't worry, those two paths will cross.

Someday. When the time is right.

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