'Something I'll never forget': Myers reflects on Padres tenure

Longest-tenured Friar will likely test free-agent market, though ‘window's open for anything’

October 24th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- When Wil Myers arrived in San Diego via trade in December 2014, he was viewed as a key piece in a massive franchise transformation.

And, in the end, he was -- even if it took longer than he or the Padres could’ve envisioned.

The 2022 Padres advanced further than any team in Myers' eight seasons with the club. But his tenure in San Diego may have come to an end with Sunday’s National League Championship Series Game 5 loss in Philadelphia.

The Padres once signed Myers to what was then the richest contract in franchise history, a six-year extension in 2017 that featured a $20 million team option for 2023. It's a near certainty the club will decline that option shortly after the World Series.

"I don't know if I can put it into words, but it's something that not everybody in baseball gets to experience," Myers said. "To go through eight years with a team -- see a team be somewhat irrelevant and turn into a team that gets national attention, making the playoffs, it was really cool to see that evolution and to see everything happening in San Diego, to see the city transform.

"It was a lot of fun for those eight years and something I'll never forget."

Speaking after Game 5 of the NLCS, Myers left open the possibility of a return to San Diego. Hey, the Padres have a vacancy at first base, after all.

"Sure," Myers said. "The window's open for anything."

But Myers also noted that he was ready to test the free-agent market for the first time in his career. The Padres will have no shortage of options at first base, including the possibility that they bring back Josh Bell or Brandon Drury, both of whom authored some meaningful October moments.

The likelihood of a Myers return probably rests a bit higher than 1-in-30, given the familiarity of the two sides. But it's still somewhat unlikely. Myers is beloved by fans and has been a steady presence in the clubhouse, but he still underperformed for much of his contract. As such, Myers will hit free agency, and he says he's merely looking to do what's best for him and his wife.

"I don't have a ton of expectations," Myers said. "I've never really experienced free agency. I'm looking forward to that, another side of the game. We'll see what happens. I really don't know. Maybe I come back to San Diego. Maybe it's somewhere else. Who knows?"

Myers spent much of the 2022 season battling injuries and played only 77 games, hitting .261/.315/.398. Once the team traded Eric Hosmer, Myers found a niche as a platoon first baseman, while also serving as a utility outfielder and a pinch-hit bat.

It's possible the Padres will look to bring him back in that type of bench capacity. But if so, they'd be looking to do so at an affordable rate. It's entirely possible Myers looks elsewhere for greater financial assurances.

If so, it'll end Myers' eight-year run in San Diego that featured its share of ups and downs. He was a hometown All-Star in 2016. He was part of playoff teams in 2020 and '22. He also had several seasons curtailed by injuries and lost his starting role multiple times due to underperformance. If Myers’ Padres tenure is indeed over, he’ll finish having hit .254/.330/.451 with 134 homers -- including 64 at Petco Park, one shy of Adrián González’s ballpark record.

"I have nothing but great things to say about San Diego -- the organization, the fans," Myers said. "It's been a lot of fun here. I've really enjoyed my time. There could've been some things where I played better at times. But all in all, nothing but great things to say about San Diego."

In his final regular-season home game, Myers was pulled in the eighth inning, and he left to a standing ovation. Decidedly unsentimental, Myers refused to envision that afternoon that it might be his final home game as a Padre. He predicted that his team would be back.

Sure enough, they were -- and they beat Los Angeles in a dramatic NL Division Series. After years of hurt at the hands of the rival Dodgers, no one appreciated that victory more than Myers. He partied in the clubhouse -- then he and his wife took to a nearby bar to buy drinks for Padres fans who were also reveling in the victory.

Myers stuck around long enough to see the Padres slay "that dragon up the freeway." His ultimate goal of bringing a World Series to San Diego? That never materialized. Called upon to pinch-hit in the ninth inning of NLCS Game 5, Myers struck out looking on a borderline pitch -- perhaps his final at-bat as a Padre. The team would strand the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.

"It's a tough way to lose it," Myers said afterward. "But I'm proud of everybody here."

When he finished speaking with reporters, Myers said a few goodbyes, packed his locker and left the Padres’ clubhouse after a baseball game for perhaps the final time.