“This one hurts”, said every single Rays fan. There’s no doubt that Austin Meadows was (and still is) a beloved player by the Tampa Bay fan base and this does indeed hurt. Let’s take a look at the trade real quick. The Tigers acquired Austin Meadows and gave the Rays INF, Isaac Paredes and a draft pick. At face value, this deal looks like a huge loss for the Rays. We lost about 30 home runs and 100 RBIs right? Not exactly. Let me tell you why this trade could’ve actually helped the Rays 2022 campaign.
I’ll be the first one to tell you that this trade hit me right in the gut. He was my favorite player and it was a huge surprise. However after shedding a few tears, I came to the conclusion that this deal actually makes a lot of sense and could be beneficial to the present and future Rays. The first reason is that Meadows’ value as a hitter has been rising quickly and the Rays’ front office noticed that they won’t be able to afford him for too long. There’s a reason that the Rays play “Money Ball”. It’s not just a 2001 Oakland Athletics scheme (movie starring Brad Pitt). The payroll that Tampa Bay has only allows for so much. The Rays are a competitive ball club year in and year out because of their player development.
That’s where reason #2 comes in. Josh Lowe. He’s a special prospect. He honestly has the potential to be a better all-around player than Austin Meadows. First of all, he’s already a better defender. Lowe will play the corner OF positions this season, but he can cover ground like a CF. Secondly, his offense shouldn’t be far off from Meadows’ projected 2022 numbers. Austin’s offensive stats have regressed since his first full season in a Rays uniform where hit .291 with 33 homers. Josh Lowe’s numbers in AAA Durham (.291, 22 HRs, 78 RBIs) have the ability to translate to the Big Leagues. The Rays also added a strong bat in Harold Ramirez and he’s already shown off his power in Spring Training.
Lastly, the return for the Rays included 23-year old INF, Isaac Paredes. It may appear that his acquisition makes no sense because of our great depth in the infield. One thing you should learn about the Rays’ front office is that they tend to think ahead. Paredes has already gotten significant playing time for the Detroit Tigers. Now, his stats don’t jump out at you, but his age and experience at the highest level will make him a great addition to our farm system. Within the system, the Rays can develop him and maximize his potential for when he’s “actually” ready for the Major Leagues.
With all this being said, we will miss Austin Meadows. We will miss his personality, his humility, and obviously his great offensive talent.
But the Rays will be just fine…