Myers takes place at center of Padres' plans

January 24th, 2017

SAN DIEGO -- The rest of the Padres filed into the room first, entering quietly through back doors and filling the last three rows of the Petco Park auditorium.

Then came the newly minted face of the franchise, , fresh off signing an $83 million contract extension that will keep him in San Diego through at least 2022. He took the podium -- alongside manager Andy Green and general manager A.J. Preller -- and he spoke of the team's vision for the future.

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At 26, Myers is entering the prime of his career. If all goes according to the Padres' plan, that prime will intersect perfectly with the emergence of many of the youngsters stationed at the back of the room on Monday.

"The best is yet to come here," Myers said, giving a nod to his teammates. "I know there's not a lot of household names yet, but I do believe and trust in this process that we have going on here. I'm a big believer in it. I truly embrace the challenge of being a leader here and being able to bring this vision together."

Myers, of course, is the cornerstone of that vision. The slugging first baseman was the Padres' best player last season and earned a start in the All-Star Game at Petco Park, where he truly emerged as the face of the Padres.

At the same time, the club's fundamental direction was changing drastically. Veteran mainstays , Matt Kemp, and Melvin Upton Jr. were all dealt in the two months leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

That left Myers, who was in the midst of his first fully healthy big league season, as a de facto veteran and clubhouse leader. He was up for the challenge.

"The guys that we're going to start introducing to the big leagues this year -- Wil embraced those guys," Preller said. "He embraced what he's seen on the Minor League side. He embraced the idea of growing with those guys. That was really important."

Obviously, Myers' immense talent played the biggest role in securing an extension. He batted .259/.336/.461 last season and was the only player in the National League with 28 homers and 28 steals.

But talent alone didn't earn Myers the largest contract in franchise history. In the eyes of executive chairman Ron Fowler, Myers checked all the boxes.

"We wanted someone who loves San Diego," Fowler said. "We wanted someone who loves playing the game. And we wanted someone who we thought could be a positive role model about how to enjoy life for our younger players, who are going to incur a lot of stress, a lot of pressure. We feel pretty good he will be the guy that can do that."

Myers is the first to say he's not a finished product. He feels as though he's far from it.

First and foremost, he'd like to add a level of consistency to his game. Last June, Myers pieced together one of the most impressive months in Padres history. But he struggled mightily in May and August.

"We think he's just really scratching the surface as far as his potential," Preller said. "From an ability standpoint, we feel like he's a guy that has shown a taste of what he can do. But we're really looking forward to the next six years to see the player we feel he's going to become."

To hear Myers talk about the Padres' future is akin to listening to a well-researched fan. Myers has clearly invested his energy in learning the club's long-term plan.

And when he talks about those pieces coming together, Myers does so with unbridled optimism.

"I love our offense," Myers said. "I love the position players we have. I truly believe that the position players we send out in 2017 are going to be the key players in those playoff runs that we are hoping to make in the future.

"Obviously, we'd have to add a couple pieces. ... I know the pitching is a little behind, but I know how many young, good arms we have in our Minor League system. If we hit on a couple of those arms, that's going to be huge for us. You add a few pitchers to an offense that matures -- I really do believe we could be a great team in the next two, three years."