7 thoughts after Detroit Tigers trade for Austin Meadows -- lineup, Riley Greene, Avila’s best move?

Tigers sent Isaac Paredes, draft pick to Tampa Bay for Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows #17 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a two-run home run during the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field on September 05, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Douglas P. DeFelice, 2021 Getty Images)

DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers pulled off a shocking blockbuster just days before the start of the regular season, bolstering their lineup with a trade for Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Austin Meadows.

Meadows, 26, was an American League All-Star in 2019 and posted a .772 OPS last season. In the last two full MLB seasons, he’s hit 60 home runs and 58 doubles in 280 games.

In return, the Tigers sent infield prospect Isaac Paredes and a 2022 competitive balance-B draft pick to the Rays.

Here are my initial thoughts on the move:

Team’s new best hitter?

The Tigers have a number of new faces in the lineup this year, but Meadows might be the best hitter of the bunch.

Here’s a look at some of the candidates for best hitter on the team (2021 stats below -- OPS = on base plus slugging percentage; oWAR = offensive wins above replacement):

  • Meadows: .772 OPS, 2.3 oWAR
  • Javier Baez: .831 OPS, 1.7 oWAR
  • Jeimer Candelario: .795 OPS, 4.1 oWAR
  • Spencer Torkelson: .935 OPS in minor leagues
  • Riley Greene: .921 OPS in minor leagues

Torkelson and Greene have incredibly high ceilings, but still have yet to play a single regular-season MLB game. Baez has the potential to be the team’s best offensive weapon, but his profile is volatile because of the strikeouts. Candelario is as steady as they come, but might not have as much upside as the others.

Meadows owns a career .822 OPS and turns 27 years old next month. He certainly has a chance to be the most productive hitter in this lineup.

Team improves now and in future

This trade won’t only improve the Tigers for 2022. Meadows is under team control for three seasons, so he won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2024.

That aligns nicely with the beginning of the team’s window of contention. While the Tigers aren’t considered serious contenders this year, they’ve certainly emerged from their rebuild and started to ascend.

Meadows will make $4 million in 2022 and remain affordable the next two seasons. That maintains the payroll flexibility the Tigers have cherished even amid a flurry of moves this offseason.

Isaac Paredes

There’s a lot to like about Paredes as a prospect, namely his management of the strike zone at such a young age. He should become a solid player for the Rays, and soon.

But the Tigers could afford to deal an infielder because they have so many players vying for those spots. Baez and Torkelson will be staples at shortstop and first base for years to come. Candelario is under team control for two more years and could get an extension.

At second base, the Tigers could end up going with a number of players down the line. Jonathan Schoop is signed through 2023, with Ryan Kreidler and Kody Clemens just one step away in Toledo.

It always felt like the Tigers should use their bounty of infielders to improve the roster elsewhere, and that’s exactly what Al Avila did.

Avila’s best trade?

Time will tell, but this certainly feels like one of the best moves Avila has made as Tigers’ general manager.

The trade that brought Paredes and Candelario to Detroit in 2017 is the mark to beat. Avila sent his son, Alex Avila, and reliever Justin Wilson to the Cubs at the trade deadline for a player who developed into the team’s best hitter over the past two seasons and a prospect who helped them land Meadows.

Tigers fans often bemoan the Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos trades, but this seems like a winner.

Riley Greene impact

Meadows’ addition shouldn’t affect how the Tigers handle Greene when he’s ready to return from a foot injury -- a process that’s expected to take about 6-8 weeks.

Greene would have been the team’s starting center fielder if he hadn’t fouled the ball off his foot over the weekend. Meadows -- a below-average defender -- won’t be manning center field at Comerica Park, so Greene’s timeline likely remains unchanged.

The 21-year-old will probably get some at-bats at Triple-A Toledo before making his MLB debut, but once he’s ready to go, it’ll be Robbie Grossman or Akil Baddoo who sees a role shift, depending on how they’re performing.

Greene hit .429 with three doubles, two triples and two home runs this spring. He only struck out six times in 26 plate appearances and posted a 1.548 OPS. There’s nothing left for him to prove, regardless of how the rest of the roster unfolds.

Grossman’s last season in Detroit

No matter how the outfield shakes out in 2021, this move certainly seems to signal the end of speculation about an extension for Grossman.

The 32-year-old outfielder posted a 2.9 WAR and .772 OPS for the Tigers last season, stealing 20 bases and hitting 23 home runs. He’s probably the most under-appreciated player on the roster, but that doesn’t change the picture that’s starting to form.

Greene and Meadows will be everyday outfielders for the Tigers going forward. Baddoo certainly looks like the most likely option to round out the position group. Even Haase, who mashes left-handed pitching, will have a pretty clear role.

Grossman came to Detroit when the team was a complete disaster and has been a very productive and professional presence in the locker room. It doesn’t look like he’ll remain in the Old English D long-term, though.

Lineup configuration

Now that Meadows is in the mix, A.J. Hinch has to start all over and take a long look at the lineup he’s been tinkering with all spring. I doubt he minds.

READ: An in-depth breakdown of what the Tigers’ Opening Day lineup could look like with Meadows

Baddoo seems to be the early favorite at leadoff, and Hinch likes Baez in the No. 3 slot. Since Meadows is the most proven power threat on the roster, he should slide into the cleanup spot, perhaps pushing Candelario up to No. 2, where the best all-around hitter belongs.

The lineup could look something like this:

  1. Akil Baddoo, CF
  2. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
  3. Javier Baez, SS
  4. Austin Meadows, LF
  5. Robbie Grossman, RF
  6. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  7. Spencer Torkelson, 1B
  8. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  9. Tucker Barnhart, C

Maybe Grossman remains at No. 2 and Candelario drops to No. 5, or perhaps Meadows bats fifth behind the top four Hinch has been using all spring, pushing Cabrera to No. 6. However it shakes out, the Tigers will have nine professional hitters on their lineup card, and that’s a beautiful sight.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.