ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Silverman insists his plans since taking over the baseball operations of the Tampa Bay Rays in mid-October did not include trading Wil Myers. But, it is his responsibility to listen to any team that inquires about the availability of any of his players, and so that is why Myers is now a San Diego Padre.
“We approached the offseason with an open mind, and that mind-set allowed these conversations to take form and turn into this trade,” Silverman said Friday on a conference call. “Our opinion of Wil has been and continues to be high, and that opinion is shared by the industry, especially San Diego, who made a very hard charge to acquire him.”
The Padres retooled their roster this week with a flurry of moves, including the three-team deal finalized Friday afternoon with the Rays and the Washington Nationals.
The Rays received catcher Rene Rivera, right-hander Burch Smith and first base prospect Jake Bauers from San Diego and outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and minor league left-hander Travis Ott from Washington in return for Myers, catcher Ryan Hanigan and minor league pitchers Jose Castillo and Gerardo Reyes.
The Nationals received pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later, believed to be shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres’ first pick in last June’s draft.
The Padres are expected to flip Hanigan to the Boston Red Sox for third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
To clear room on the Rays 40-man roster, relief pitcher Brandon Gomes was designated for assignment.
Silverman brushed aside talk the team had given up on Myers, the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year who had a poor second season that was interrupted by a fractured bone in his right wrist. Silverman called the trade, the largest in team history, simply a baseball trade.
“This is about a trade that makes us a better club this year and going forward, and Wil Myers is a key to doing that,” Silverman said. “Without his talents and value there wouldn’t have been an 11-person trade that all three teams decided was in the best interest of the organization, the kind of trade that makes the baseball world go round. Every team walks away thinking they bettered their organization.”
Myers declined to comment Friday to the Tampa Tribune. He said he will talk next week when things settle down.
He did tweet, “Thanks @RaysBaseball for support last 2 years. You gave me 1st shot in big leagues and I won’t forget! Will miss teammates, staff, and fans!”
And he followed that tweet with this: “I couldn’t be more excited to join the @Padres. Seeing these moves fires me up and I am ready to help this club win!”
Myers, 24, has now been the centerpiece of two trades in 24 months.
He came to the Rays in December 2012 from Kansas City in the seven-player deal that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals in exchange for four prospects, including Jake Odorizzi.
Myers was the consensus minor league player of the year the summer before. He joined the Rays in June with a highly anticipated call-up and proceeded to spark the offense and help the team win the AL Wild Card.
But his sophomore season got off to a slow start and was halted in late May when he suffered his injury. He returned after missing 70 games and his struggles continued.
Amid his slump were whispers from inside the clubhouse about his work-ethic. Myers even admitted during the final road trip of the season that he didn’t work as hard during last spring training because he believed he had already arrived as a big league player.
Silverman said none of that figured into the trade despite the fact he moved a player who won’t be a free agent until 2019 -- normally the type of player the Rays crave.
“It’s difficult to trade a young player like Wil, who has great talent and team control,” Silverman said, “but it’s also difficult to get back the type of players that we’re receiving and to be able to have the fortune to add them to our organization.”
Rivera, a six-year journeyman who enjoyed his first season as a frontline catcher in 2014, will do the “lion’s share” of catching for the Rays, according to Silverman.
Rivera fits the Rays profile as a high-end defensive catcher but also brings some power to the position. He hit 11 home runs and drove in 44 runs last season while batting .252 for the Padres.
“We look at Rivera as someone who is a respectable bat with some home run pop and someone who should be a challenging at-bat for opposing pitchers,” Silverman said.
Souza, who will be 26 in April, was the International League MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2014 when he batted .350 with 18 home runs, 75 RBIs, 26 stolen bases and a .432 on-base percentage.
“We expect him to be a mainstay in our lineup for many years to come,” Silverman said. “That was the intent when we targeted him. He was a target for us and he’s someone that we’re excited to have in the organization and someone we can grow with over the next couple of years.”