As the Rays ponder over how to construct their roster for the 2022 season, one of the questions they will need to answer is whether or not to trade Austin Meadows.
Meadows is coming off of a good but not great 2021 season in which he hit .234/.315/.458 (113 wRC+) with 27 homeruns and 106 RBIs. There’s no doubting that Meadows can still help a very good Rays team win ballgames, but the Rays have been reportedly discussing him in trades this offseason.
Earlier this winter, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times classified Austin Meadows as one of the two most likely Rays players (along with Kevin Kiermaier) to be traded before the 2022 season. There was also a national report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal on Wednesday that the trade market for Meadows is heating up now that prominent free agent outfielders are coming off the board:
Many teams were in on Schwarber. The Phillies’ agreement with him is expected to open up outfield market for both free agents and trades. One name getting prominent mention in trade talks, according to sources: Austin Meadows of the Rays.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 16, 2022
Now that we know the Rays are discussing Meadows in trades, the logical next question to ask is “which teams are the best fits for him?”
There haven’t been any public reports along the lines of “team X is interested in trading for Meadows”, so in order to answer that question we can try to use projected depth charts instead.
Throughout his career so far, the majority of Meadows’ playing time has come in the outfield corners or at designated hitter. The market for Meadows has probably improved a bit now that the DH has been officially adopted into the NL as well.
The matrix below shows the 2022 WAR projections for each position for all 30 big league clubs:
This is a good visual of how strong each team projects to be at every position. You’ll notice the Rays for example project very well across the board and don’t seem to have any glaring holes on the roster. The deep position player corps that Tampa Bay possesses is part of the reason that they are even willing to trade Meadows in the first place.
For this exercise though, we’re going to focus on the teams who have large holes in either the corner outfield, the two positions that Meadows is able to play, or DH.
Contenders seeking a bat
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are looking to repeat their division title in 2022 and a corner outfielder may be their most glaring need. It’s worth noting that many of the best hitters on the team are right-handed which would make Meadows’ left-handed stick look awfully nice sandwiched in between them. Left-handed corner outfield bats are starting to dwindle in free agency as Kyle Schwarber (PHI), Eddie Rosario (ATL), Joc Pederson (SFG), Corey Dickerson (STL) and even Alex Dickerson (ATL) have all found new homes.
Cleveland has perpetually been looking for outfield help and this offseason is no different. Franmil Reyes figures to play everyday in the DH spot, but Bradley Zimmer and Steven Kwan are currently projected to play in the outfield corners. It’s safe to say there is room for improvement there and Cleveland is reportedly looking to add a big bat before the season starts.
San Diego Padres
San Diego’s roster is built to win now and their most glaring holes are in the corner outfield spots and at DH. Nomar Mazara and Jurickson Profar are currently projected for everyday at-bats in those spots, yikes. It was also recently announced that Fernando Tatis Jr. is undergoing wrist surgery and expected to miss the first half of the season, enhancing the team’s need to add offense. The Rays have had plenty of recent trade history with San Diego as well as Tampa Bay has sent Blake Snell, Tommy Pham, Jake Cronenworth, and Emilio Pagan out west over the past handful of years.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays were reportedly trying to sign Kyle Schwarber before he ended up with Philadelphia on a 4-year deal earlier this week. The Toronto lineup is littered with right-handed hitters including the two players currently projected in the outfield corners in Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Randal Grichuk. While Meadows would certainly be an upgrade, the elephant in the room here is that both teams are in the same division and have aspirations to win it.
Re-tooling teams looking to supplement their cores
The Dbacks have been reportedly interested in Michael Conforto this offseason and he has a very similar skillset to Meadows. If they are unable to land him and/or hesitant to dish out a lucrative multi-year contract in free agency, maybe they will look to add a bat via trade instead. The three years of team control that comes with Meadows should be enticing to a club that looks to be building a young core around players such as Zac Gallen, Daulton Varsho, Alek Thomas, and Corbin Carroll.
The Rockies are weird. After trading Nolan Arenado away and letting Trevor Story and Jon Gray walk away in free agency, Colorado turned around and gave Kris Bryant a massive seven-year, $182M deal. While it’s not clear whether they are trying to compete or rebuild, adding a power hitter like Meadows could be an intriguing move for the club. Raimel Tapia and Sam Hilliard are currently projected for everyday at-bats in that outfield which doesn’t seem ideal for a team who just went all-in on one of the biggest free agents on the market.
Kansas City Royals
2021 was a disappointing year in Kansas City but the team has a number of highly rated prospects knocking on the big league door including Bobby Witt Jr., Nick Pratto, and MJ Melendez. An established, but still relatively young, power hitter like Meadows could be a nice addition to that new young core. The team has also been reportedly discussing trades with Oakland for starter Frankie Montas, which suggests that they are not only looking to improve their big league roster, but also willing to do so via trade. Veteran hitters Andrew Benintendi (LF) and Carlos Santana (DH) are also entering the last years of their contracts.
The Rangers have made a couple huge splashes this offseason and are rumored to be looking for another outfield bat. Austin Meadows could fit nicely with their new additions and would be an upgrade over Nick Solak and Willie Calhoun, two young players who haven’t produced in MLB so far. Solak and Nate Lowe are two players that Tampa bay has shipped to Texas in recent years, which speaks to the trade familiarity between the two clubs.