The Detroit Tigers are going all in to make the postseason for the first time since 2014. After an offseason highlighted by the addition of free agent Javier Baez, the Tigers acquired outfielder Austin Meadows in a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays just days before the start of the 2022 MLB season.
Tampa Bay acquired shortstop prospect Isaac Paredes from Detroit and a competitive balance Round B draft pick in the deal. An All-Star in 2019, Meadows gives the Tigers another power-hitting bat.
It’s challenging to evaluate a trade immediately after it’s completed, but let’s hand out rapid reaction trade grades for both sides of this Austin Meadows deal.
Detroit Tigers Trade Grade: B+
The Tigers managed to acquire Austin Meadows, who turns 27 in May, without giving up multiple prospects. Meadows has a team-friendly contract that will keep him in Detroit’s control through the 2024 campaign—a major appeal to the Tigers.
A former No. 9 overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, Meadows has plenty of pop. He clocked 27 homers and logged 106 RBI in 2021. However, he hit just .234 last season and floundered mightily against lefties—batting .198 with only three homers against southpaws. Meadows can’t afford to struggle that much against lefties in 2022 if he wants to avoid becoming a platoon player.
Despite a low average and woes against left-handed pitching, Meadows offers a major boost to the middle of Detroit’s lineup. He will be featured in an offensive attack led by Baez, third baseman Jeimer Candelario, second baseman Jonathan Schoop and designated hitter Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers also announced that 22-year-old rookie sensation Spencer Torkelson made their Opening Day roster.
See you April 8. pic.twitter.com/nsfEtty1vw
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 2, 2022
A first baseman, Torkelson was drafted No. 1 overall by the Tigers in the 2020 MLB Draft. His quick ascension to the big leagues is impressive. The addition of Meadows and the promotion of Torkelson makes the Tigers a potential offensive juggernaut.
The Tigers earn a B+ in the Meadows deal that gives them a realistic chance to compete for the American League Central crown this season.
Tampa Bay Rays Trade Grade: B
The Rays dealt Austin Meadows in yet another cost-cutting move. However, the acquisition of Isaac Paredes should not be overlooked. He entered the 2021 MLB season as Detroit’s sixth-ranked prospect.
Paredes has been unproductive across the past two seasons with the Tigers. He hit .215 in 57 contests the past two years. However, he is only 23 and can play multiple infield positions.
The Rays are banking on Paredes turning around his young career, which is plausible given his projected upside.
The future draft pick the Rays will get is expected to be the fifth pick after the second round, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
The Tigers have three seasons of control with the 26-year-old Meadows before he reaches free agency. Paredes, 23, can play all three infield positions. The draft choice, in the Competitive B round, will come with the fifth pick after the second round — somewhere in the late 60s.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 5, 2022
Given the Rays’ strong track of record of drafting and developing players—especially talented youngsters like Paredes—the club could end up the long-term winners of this trade. Dealing away Meadows enables the Rays to feature young outfielder Josh Lowe, who was called up to the Opening Day roster.
Rays promoting top outfield prospect Josh Lowe, whom they had optioned to minors last week, sources tell @TheAthletic. Just as trade of Willy Adames last season opened spot for Taylor Walls and eventually Wander Franco, trade of Austin Meadows opening spot for Lowe.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 5, 2022
One of Tampa Bay’s top prospects, Lowe should compete for playing time immediately. A dominant force at Triple-A Durham last year, the 24-year-old Lowe hit .291 with 22 home runs and 78 RBI. Furthermore, he went a perfect 26-of-26 on stolen base attempts. A power hitting outfielder with plenty of speed, Lowe could play his way into a regular spot in Tampa Bay’s lineup.
The Rays earn a B grade after trading a young outfielder in Meadows, who is not a free agent until 2025. It’s risky in some sense because Meadows could have helped the Rays in their championship pursuit this season. However, the Rays are banking on developing Paredes and were willing to move Meadows in order to snatch another draft pick. And in the process of doing so, the Rays will get a better look at young phenom Josh Lowe.