Cleveland Guardians 2022 trade target: OF Austin Meadows
The Rays are no strangers to dealing players, and it looks like they could be trading outfielder Austin Meadows this offseason. Should the Guardians consider making the move?
The Tampa Bay Rays have already made it clear they could be willing to deal Kevin Kiermaier this offseason, but it appears as though fellow outfielder Austin Meadows could also be available in a trade.
If that’s the case, the Cleveland Guardians could put themselves firmly in the discussion for the 26-year-old, who would remain under team control until 2025.
What to Like About OF Austin Meadows
Back in 2019, Meadows put together a tremendous All-Star season that garnered him MVP votes, as he hit .291/.364/.558 with 33 home runs, 29 doubles, 7 triples, 12 stolen bases, and a 144 OPS+. It was the type of breakout season that made Meadows a first-round pick by the Pirates back in 2013 in the first place.
And after a disappointing shortened 2020 season that included an oblique strain and Meadows testing positive for COVID-19 during Summer Camp, he bounced back for a decent stretch of 2021. From May 1 through June 30, Meadows hit .248/,326/.510 with 12 home runs and 14 doubles. Not necessarily eye-popping numbers, but solid contributions which included a blistering stretch between May 2 and June 6 where ten of those home runs came from (and ultimately garnered him some MVP votes again at the end of the season).
Areas of Concern
The issue in 2021 was that Meadows only hit .228/.296/.425 in the 233 at-bats after June, making his torrid stretch earlier in the season feel more like a blip than something to bank on moving forward. Teams began adjusting to Meadows, shifting heavily against him, while his hard-hit rate significantly dropped in 2021 to the 32nd percentile.
And while the Rays control Meadows for multiple seasons, his price tag is starting to go up in his arbitration years. He figures to make around $4.3 million in his first arbitration year, which may start to seem steep for a player who had one great season three years ago and has only hit a combined .228 in the 650 total at-bats since.
That being said, it might still be worth it for the Guardians to kick the tires on Meadows if they think there is something they can uncover in his swing or approach that might unlock the full potential of a player who has showed glimpses in the past. Tampa Bay and Cleveland have been willing trade partners plenty of times in the past, and even with his years of control, it’s doubtful the Rays are looking for a king’s ransom. This is just how they operate; if you ever find yourself playing for them, don’t get comfortable (unless, of course, you’re Wander Franco – for now).
So… Should Cleveland Trade for Austin Meadows?
If Meadows were to be the only move the Guardians made on the trade market, the state of the outfield would still be pretty grim. At this point, Meadows is a fine defensive outfielder who is prone to both sizzling and ice-cold stretches at the plate. His 2019 season was incredible, but he’s had a 100 wRC+ since, and the Guardians would probably rather see what they have in other outfield options coming up through the minors, such as Steven Kwan, Richie Palacios, and maybe even Nolan Jones or Oscar Gonzalez, if he isn’t scooped up in the Rule 5 Draft. Not to mention Josh Naylor figures to re-enter the outfield fray at some point this season, too.
If the Guardians are going to acquire an outfielder in a trade, they’re likely going to swing for the fences on a bigger name. Trading for Meadows wouldn’t necessarily be out of the question, but it would have to be a more ancillary pickup that really works for them. At that rate, Meadows adds depth to the outfield and could even carry the team offensively for a few weeks during the season.