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Trade Retrospective: Wil Myers, Steven Souza, and Trea Turner change teams in a big three-team trade involving the Padres, Nationals, and Rays

The Rays made a rare confusing trade, and the Nationals made out as well as they were expected to.

Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

For the fifth straight offseason, BtBS is looking back on some of the biggest trades from years past. Check out all the entries here.

In December 2014, the Padres, Nationals, and Rays executed a big three-team trade. Let’s break it down:

  • The Rays traded Wil Myers, Ryan Hanigan, Gerardo Reyes, and José Castillo to the Padres. They then immediately traded Hanigan that same day to the Red Sox for Will Middlebrooks.
  • The Padres traded sent René Rivera, Burch Smith, and Jake Bauers to the Rays.
  • The Nationals traded Steven Souza and Travis Ott to the Rays.
  • The Padres traded Joe Ross to the Nationals.

In June of 2015, the Padres sent Trea Turner to the Nationals to complete the trade. They couldn’t do it immediately because they had just drafted Turner earlier that year, and there were rules against trading a recently drafted player so soon. MLB put it in place to prevent players from forcing trades after they were drafted, similarly to what Eli Manning did when the Chargers drafted him, because heaven forbid we allow players to choose where they’ll work like normal human beings.

In this trade retrospective series, trades will be evaluated based on what was known at the time. That is the only fair, logical way to evaluate trades and strip luck out of the equation: process over results. Having said that, we will still take a look at how the trade worked out for all parties.

The Deal

As I had discussed last week in the Kemp/Grandal trade, new Padres GM A.J. Preller was trying to pull off the fastest rebuild in MLB history. We already went over how the Kemp/Grandal trade was ill informed at the time and turned out to be a disaster for the Padres. In this trade, they parted with two quality prospects in Ross and Turner in exchange for a package headlined by Wil Myers, who had just come off a disastrous sophomore season after winning Rookie of the Year.

In his rookie year, Myers demonstrated the hitting talent that scouts saw in him by hitting .293/.354/.478 in 335 PA. He was already having a down year in 2014, hitting just .227/.313/.354 on May 30th when he collided with Desmond Jennings in the outfield, resulting in a stress fracture in his wrist. He missed nearly three months as a result of the injury, and when he came back, well, you probably know how a wrist injury can affect a hitter. In his 137 PA after returning, he hit a paltry .213/.263/.268 with just one home run.

This was a lot for the Padres to part with for Myers. If had a healthy season where he hit similarly to how he hit in his rookie year, that would be one thing, but Myers was high risk at that point because of his wrist injury. To make matters worse, the Padres wanted him to be the everyday center fielder, a position he wasn’t suited for, as he was not even a very good right fielder. I actually saw him play in person at his second home game of the season (great ballpark, by the way), and though he was better in center field than I thought he’d be, he clearly didn’t belong there. He got good reads on flyballs, but he just did not have the speed and athleticism that the position requires.

The Nationals had a great regular season in 2014, finishing with the best record in the NL thanks to their 96 wins. Unfortunately, the eventual world champion Giants eliminated them in the NLDS in four games. As is frequently the case when dealing with the small sample size tournament, this loss had a lot more to do with randomness than a failure of the team. They were still set up beautifully for 2015 (I know, I know), but smart teams should be preparing for the future while they are competing in the present. Acquiring Turner would solve the vacancy at shortstop once Ian Desmond hit free agency after the 2015 season. The same could be said of Ross with Jordan Zimmermann headed to free agency after the 2015 season.

Getting Turner and Ross in exchange for Souza was nothing short of a coup for the Nationals. Scouts generally saw Souza as a somewhat high floor, low ceiling player. The Rays clearly saw something in him that they really liked, but I would rather have kept Turner and Ross. Also, Souza was nearly two years older than Myers! He didn’t even make many top 100 prospect lists in 2015, though it’s worth mentioning that Kiley McDaniel was higher on him than most, ranking him 52nd on his list.

Again, it’s hard to discern the Rays’ thinking here, especially with their reputation of being such a smart organization. They needed to rebuild, so selling low on Myers was a peculiar move.

Due to the number of players involved in this deal, I’m not going to go over them all in detail. Rivera and Hanigan were no more than solid back-up catchers. Reyes, Castillo, Smith, Bauers, and Ott were all either lottery tickets or not much more than that. As for Middlebrooks, he had a great rookie year in 2012, but his performance plummeted after that. In 2014, injuries led to him hitting a lowly .191/.256/.265 in just 63 games.

The Results

The results were pretty much as expected for the Nationals and Rays. The Padres’ results, on the other hand, are perhaps being a little more complicated.

The Nats called up Turner in late August 2015, but he struggled during his first major league action. The following year, however, he started becoming the player scouts believed he could be. In 73 games, he hit an excellent .342/.370/.567, good for a 146 wRC+ and 3.4 WAR. As expected, he added value on the basepaths thanks to his speed. He stole 33 bases against just six times caught. Turner finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Corey Seager.

To date, Turner has a career line of .291/.348/.467 and has accumulated a 28.2 BsR. His baserunning ranks third in the majors since 2016. Getting a top-ten shortstop out of this deal is by itself a huge win for the Nationals, which is good because Ross did not turn out nearly as well.

Ross also debuted in 2015, and was pretty solid through the following year with a 3.77 RA9 and good walk rates, though his 21.3 K% was mediocre. In 2017, he struggled quite a bit as indicated by his 5.38 RA9, which was likely at least in part due to his torn UCL. He underwent Tommy John surgery but actually succeeded in returning the following season. Since coming back in 2018, he has had a 5.74 RA9 over 80 IP with worse peripherals than before the surgery. Due to concerns over COVID-19, he has opted out of the 2020 season.

Souza underwhelmed during his first two seasons in Tampa Bay, hitting a subpar .237/.310/.405 while striking out in roughly a third of his plate appearances. In 2017, however, he became the player that the Rays likely believed he could be. He hit .239/.351/.459 and added value on the basepaths, which added up to a 121 wRC+ and 4.1 WAR.

Despite Souza’s career year, the Rays decided to trade him to the Diamondbacks before the 2018 season. I can’t imagine that the Rays could have predicted that Souza’s following two seasons would be devastated by injuries, but they parted ways with him just in time. He missed more than half of the 2018 season due to injury, and hit only .220/.309/.369 when he did play. Souza then tore multiple ligaments in his left knee during Spring Training last year, resulting in his missing the entire season. The Diamondbacks decided to nontender him after the 2019 season. He is currently on a one-year contract with the Cubs.

Myers’ wrist continued to bother him during his first year in San Diego. He played in only 60 games in 2015, but he hit well, slashing .253/.336/.427. The Padres made him the full time first baseman in 2016, and he then proceeded to have the best year of his career. He hit .259/.336/.461, good for a 114 wRC+, and he actually added a lot of value through his defense and baserunning, adding up to 3.5 WAR for the year.

The Padres rewarded Myers by giving him a six-year, $83 million extension before the 2017 season, which isn’t looking too smart right now, but I think the criticism of it is overblown. As Craig Edwards pointed out at FanGraphs, the thought process behind it was sound. That being said, I understand that it might be hard to see it that way after Myers just had a subreplacement level season. In his defense, the Padres did him no favors by putting him in center field for 66 games last year. The Padres should have just traded Myers when they signed Eric Hosmer, an albatross of a contract that is worthy of far, far more criticism, even if it was for a low return.

The fact of the matter is that owner Ron Fowler is worth $500 million, and he is just part of the Padres’ ownership group. Regardless of what the owners might have the public believe, even if Myers only ends up producing for the first two years of his six-year extension, the Padres will be fine financially. Besides the fact that the Hosmer deal is a lot worse, any excuse to use the Myers’ deal as a reason to not spend further is just that, an excuse. With all the money in today’s game, not spending is always a choice, not a necessity.

Middlebrooks never panned out in San Diego or anywhere else. It’s not a big deal for the Padres, as they bought low on him anyway. Nothing of note has happened with the lesser players of the deal. None of the prospects panned out.

Nationals Results

Remaining Control WAR
Remaining Control WAR
Trea Turner 6 14.1
Joe Ross 6 4
Total 12 18.1
Baseball Reference

Yeah, that’s pretty great. Turner still has three years left on his rookie contract, too!

Rays Results

Remaining Control WAR
Remaining Control WAR
Steven Souza 6 6.3
Baseball Reference

I usually include everyone in these tables, but this time I’m just going to focus on the major players involved. I imagine the Rays were hoping for more from Souza, but what they got really isn’t that bad, and they traded him away at the perfect time.

Padres Results

Remaining Control WAR
Remaining Control WAR
Wil Myers 5 8.5
Will Middlebrooks 5 -0.8
Total 10 7.7
Baseball Reference

Myers hadn’t been bad before last season, but this is still kind of disappointing. This really was a riskier trade than most gave it credit for given the wrist injury Myers suffered in 2014 and the quality of prospects that the Padres parted with. There were writers out there that credited the Padres with getting Myers without parting with Hunter Renfroe or Austin Hedges, but Turner has turned out better than either of them, and it really isn’t that surprising. Imagine if the Padres had hung onto Turner instead? They would have had a keystone this year of Trea Turner and Fernando Tatís Jr.! I’m sure fans would’ve preferred that over taking a flyer on Jurickson Profar this year at second base.

. . .

Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.