Tigers outfielder Austin Meadows won’t return from the injured list this season, as manager A.J. Hinch told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jason Beck) this afternoon. Meadows initially was placed on the injured list back in April due to anxiety, and has been away from the team since June.
It’s been a long road for Meadows since the Pirates selected him with the ninth overall in the 2013 draft. He made his MLB debut in 2018 with Pittsburgh but was traded to the Rays as part of the Chris Archer deal after just 165 plate appearances in the majors with the club that drafted him. Once in Tampa, he quickly rose to prominence as an All Star in 2019, even garnering down-ballot MVP votes thanks to a sensational .291/.364/.558 slash line across 138 games that season.
Meadows struggled badly during the shortened 2020 season, slashing just .205/.296/.371 while being limited to 36 games by an oblique strain. He bounced back somewhat in 2021, posting a 112 wRC+ as the Rays’ everyday left fielder. That said, he was rated brutally by defensive metrics that season, and combined with the reduced offense relative to his peak in 2019 he was worth just 1.6 fWAR that season. With Meadows due to be eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2022, the Rays shipped him to Detroit in exchange for struggling infielder Isaac Parades before the season began.
While Parades has taken off with the Rays, Meadows has made it into just 42 games with Detroit since the trade. He was limited to just 36 games of league average offense (100 wRC+) with the Tigers last year due to vertigo. Meadows then managed just six games this year before heading to the injured list. Overall, the 28-year-old outfielder has slashed just .248/.333/.322 in 168 trips to the plate since first suiting up for the Tigers. With Meadows likely due for a raise on his $4.3MM salary in his final trip through arbitration this offseason and the Tigers flush with young outfield talent like Riley Greene, Kerry Carpenter, and Meadows’ younger brother Parker Meadows, it’s fair to wonder if Detroit will consider non-tendering the elder Meadows brother this offseason, allowing him to hit free agency rather than retaining him for the 2024 campaign.
That being said, Hinch’s comments indicated nothing but support for Meadows as he works through his struggles. As relayed by MLB.com, Hinch said that “We have to continue to be supportive of him and others that are going through experiences that none of us really know unless you’ve done it… And so, rather than judge him, we need to support him, and we’ve continued to do that as an organization. We will continue to do it.”