LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers didn’t wait long to address the hole in their outfield created by prospect Riley Greene’s fractured foot.
On Monday, the Tigers acquired outfielder Austin Meadows from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for 23-year-old infielder Isaac Paredes and a 2022 competitive round-B draft pick (No. 71 overall).
When Greene is healthy, he will be the Tigers’ starting center fielder.
Meadows will arrive in Lakeland on Tuesday and travel with the team Wednesday afternoon to Detroit for Opening Day. The Tigers’ projected outfield for the season opener: Meadows in left field, Akil Baddoo in center and Robbie Grossman in right.
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Meadows, 26, is owed $4 million for the 2022 season. The left-handed hitter will be arbitration-eligible for the second time after this season and is under team control through the 2024 season.
Meadows, the older brother of Tigers outfield prospect Parker Meadows, was an American League All-Star in 2019 with the Rays. That season, he hit .291 with 33 home runs.
Last year, Meadows hit just .234, though he still launched 27 homers in 518 at-bats and, according to FanGraphs, was worth 2 WAR. He started 72 games in left field and another 58 at designated hitter.
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The Tigers have added six players on MLB contracts ahead of the 2022 season: Meadows, shortstop Javier Baez (six years, $140 million), left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez (five years, $77 million), left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin (two years, $13 million), right-handed starter Michael Pineda (one-year, $5.5 million) and catcher Tucker Barnhart (trade from Cincinnati Reds).
Once Greene returns, the Tigers will operate with an outfield mix of Meadows, Greene, Grossman and Baddoo. Three of those players are left-handers, while Grossman is a switch-hitter.
Over Meadows’ four-year MLB career, he has hit .271 in 1,047 plate appearances vs. right-handed pitchers and .237 in 478 plate appearances vs. left-handed pitchers.
Baddoo, too, has trouble with left-handers — hitting .214 with zero homers as a rookie last year — while Greene and Grossman have proven successful against both types of pitchers.
Paredes debuted as a 21-year-old during the 2020 season, hitting .220 with a home run and four doubles in 34 games. Last season, he hit .208 with five extra-base hits in 23 games.
Originally a third baseman, the Tigers had Paredes work at second base for much of the 2021 season in Triple-A Toledo. In 72 games with the Mud Hens, he hit .265 with a .397 on-base percentage and 11 home runs.
Meadows was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round (No. 9 overall) out of high school in Georgia in 2013. The Pirates dealt him to the Rays at the trade deadline in 2018, along with right-hander Tyler Glasnow, in exchange for righty Chris Archer.
The deal for Meadows isn’t the first time the Tigers have sent an infield prospect to the Rays. In 2014, then-general manager Dave Dombrowski orchestrated a three-team trade in which shortstop Willy Adames and left-hander Drew Smyly went to Tampa Bay, Austin Jackson went to the Seattle Mariners and the Rays sent infielder Nick Franklin to the M’s and star left-hander David Price to the Tigers.
Adames debuted in 2018 with the Rays and hit .254 with 43 homers over 332 games with the franchise. The Rays traded Adames to the Milwaukee Brewers in May 2021; he posted a slash line of .285/.366/.521 with 20 homers in 99 games with the Brewers.
More recently, current general manager Al Avila acquired outfielder Mike Mahtook from the Rays in January 2017, sending pitching prospect Drew Smith (who was later traded to the New York Mets) to Tampa Bay.
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