The Cincinnati Reds lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 2 - 1 today. It was disappointing, but not entirely surprising. The Reds have been sluggish of late. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are starting to round into form after a rocky start. The more things change, the more they stay the same: the Reds are still looking up at the Cardinals in the NL Central standings.
And while the Reds are far, far more competitive this year than they were last, it’s still been another season full of maddening ineptitude. There are many culprits (an unreliable bullpen, inconsistent starting pitching, a lineup that cannot hit for power, to name a few), but one name stands out in particular for reaching a level of untold incompetence. Wil Myers, the Reds’ big $7.5 million free agent signing this offseason (with a mutual option for 2024), has been an absolute bust.
The numbers are atrocious. The 32-year-old Myers is currently below the Medoza line with a .189 batting average, a full 65 points below his career average of .254. He’s getting on base barely a quarter of his at-bats. His slugging percentage is pitiful (.283). He’s basically turned into the Charlie Brown of hitters – he can’t do anything right.
It’s turned into a real problem for the Reds: not just because eleven-year vet's poor play is dragging an already-compromised offense down even further, but because there’s not much the Reds can do about it at this point. They already signed him. This isn’t the NFL. You can’t just cut a guy and create more cap space. That money is gonzo. And for a small-market team like the Reds, getting zero return on a $7.5 million investment is like the Yankees getting zero on a $30 million investment – that’s painful.
But compounding the issue is Myers’ poor play that has made him almost untradeable up to this point. For a team like the Reds, who are in the middle of their umpteenth rebuild, young players are worth their weight in gold – vets like Myers are worth whatever they can fetch on the trade market. That’s their real value. The Reds didn’t sign Myers with illusions that he’d suddenly turn into an MVP-contender. No, they signed him so they could flip him for prospects at the trade deadline. Now, even that doesn’t seem possible.
All of this is to say, Myers is almost certainly the Reds’ worst free agency signing in the last three years. There really aren’t any other serious contenders. Here’s a quick breakdown of players they’ve signed to 1-year deals since 2020:
INF Jason Vosler ($1 million in February 2023)
SP Luke Weaver ($2 million in January 2023)
C Curt Casali ($3.25 million in December 2022)
C Luke Maile ($1.2 million in November 2022)
OF Tommy Pham ($7.5 million in March 2022)
INF Brandon Drury (signed a minor-league contract in March 2022)
RP Hunter Strickland ($1.8 million in March 2022)
1B Colin Moran ($1 million in March 2022)
RP Buck Farmer (signed a minor-league contract in March 2022)
INF Donovan Solano ($4.5 million in March 2022)
RP Sean Doolittle ($1.5 million in February 2021)
Now of course, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I didn’t see Mike Moustakas’s name here. You’re dumb, Ian. He was, by far, the worst free agent signing not only of the last three years, but maybe in all of Cincinnati Reds history. Maybe all of baseball history." And you’d be correct… mostly.
You see, Moustakas was actually signed four years ago. If I’d extended this free-agency window an extra year, then yes, the Moose would have gotten this distinction running away. Instead, we’ll settle for Myers, although considering his stats “rival” Moustakas’s, I’m not really sure “settling” is the appropriate word.
It’s also important to consider that this list doesn’t include players claimed off of waivers (like Ian Gibaut) or through trades (like Kevin Newman). And while those two certainly have made strong cases for the MURY Award (Most Useless Red of the Year), Myers still holds a commanding lead. No player on this team is being paid more to do less.
It’s unforgivable that the Reds made such an embarrassing signing, but the worst part is they just keep sending Myers out there to swing and miss at fastballs down and away. Like I said before, that $7.5 million ain’t coming back. It’s a sunk cost. Even if you can’t literally move him, it’s time to move on. Myers’s playing time can’t keep coming at the expense of younger players who are actually going to be a part of the next competitive Reds team.
Big-time prospects like Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and even older “prospects” Jose Barrero, Nick Senzel and Spencer Steer, are the guys who need reps. Not Myers. Not a guy who’s about half a season from being out of baseball completely. It’s time to see what the kids can do.