Once this lockout is finally over, the transaction freeze will lift and teams can make trades and signings again. The Milwaukee Brewers, still needing help on offense, could look to the trade market once more when that happens.
Also once more, the Tampa Bay Rays could make sense as a trade partner. The Brewers traded with the Rays last season to boost their offense when they acquired Willy Adames. Perhaps they could do so again and acquire Adames’ former teammate, Austin Meadows.
The Tampa Bay Rays have signaled a willingness to trade Austin Meadows this spring. He could be a great under-the-radar trade target to be the Brewers designated hitter.
The Rays are constantly turning over their roster and always have a bunch of good prospects ready to take over. Once players start to get too expensive, Tampa Bay becomes willing to trade them. This typically happens during the arbitration years for these players. Austin Meadows is in his first year of arbitration in 2022.
Meadows is projected to earn $4.3MM this season and has three years of team control left, which fits right into the Brewers contention window for a World Series.
Let’s get into the numbers.
Last season, Meadows hit .234/.315/.458 with 27 home runs, 106 RBIs, a 117 OPS+, and 113 wRC+. He also drew walks at a 10% clip and struck out 20.6% of the time. Meadows had a down year in the shortened 2020 season but bounced back well in 2021.
Still, he wasn’t able to get back to his 2019 level of performance, when he broke out with a .291/.364/.558 slash line and 33 homers. Still, Meadows is quite productive.
The obvious draw here is the power. Meadows has easy 30+ HR per year power in his bat. Although his on-base ability has dipped recently, the ceiling is there and moving his bat from the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field to the hitter-friendly confines of American Family Field could boost his numbers back up. After all, that same move did wonders for Willy Adames. Perhaps a similar turnaround could be in store if Meadows came to Milwaukee.
Despite the big power and low average tendency Meadows showed in 2021, he did not strike out a ton. He struck out just 20% of the time, which isn’t that bad by today’s standards. He draws his walks and is a big run producer.
Defensively, Meadows is limited to left field and he isn’t even a strong defender over there either, making him a perfect candidate to DH. With that job now open in the National League, he becomes a potential target for the Brewers.
As for what it would cost the Brewers to acquire Meadows from the Rays, a hypothetical return could be a variety of things. Tampa Bay could look for major league help back, in which case the Brewers have depth in the starting rotation they could deal from, but Tampa doesn’t really have a strong need in the rotation, so moving someone like Adrian Houser or Eric Lauer might not make much sense, and the Brewers might want more than just Meadows back for one of those guys anyways.
Tampa Bay could simply be looking for more prospects in return for Meadows. The Crew’s top tier of prospects likely would be safe, but someone or multiple someone’s from that second or third tier could be in play. Maybe a Carlos Rodriguez or Antoine Kelly or Victor Castaneda could be on the table.
The point is, it won’t take a huge haul to acquire Meadows, but it will cost something solid. He’s a power bat that could supply 30+ home runs as a left handed hitter in the middle of the lineup in Milwaukee. There’s potential that he could hit for a high average as well and a change of scenery to American Family Field could help that.
He hasn’t been talked about much as a trade target for the Brewers, but with the DH now in play, plus the Brewers trade history with Tampa Bay, Austin Meadows is a potential target for Milwaukee once the lockout is lifted.