Could the Yankees trade for this former AL East rival?

yankees, austin meadows
Jun 8, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Austin Meadows (17) hits a single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees currently have a hole in LF. While Oswaldo Cabrera definitely has a shot to be a productive everyday left-fielder, they may prefer him in a utility role. It’s clear the Yankees want a left-handed bat that can give them a spark in the middle of their lineup and provide some extra HR power.

They haven’t found the perfect match between someone who can play a serviceable left field and consistently hit, but perhaps looking to a former Yankee killer could give them the boost they need. Austin Meadows had a difficult season out in the Motor City with the Tigers, struggling with injury and mental health issues that sidelined him for the majority of the season.

Though last year gave him his fair share of problems to overcome, Meadows brings a lot of desirable tools to the table. With Yankee Stadium, we could see Meadows return to his 2019-2021 offensive numbers once again.

Adding Left-Handed HR Power

Austin Meadows struggled in 2022 to hit for much power as he dealt with constant injuries and an unspecified illness that frequently limited him on the field, but he’s one of the better HR hitters in the game. He had a career 27 HR/600 pace prior to 2022, where he had 0 in 147 PAs, but Comerica holds in plenty of HRs. Statcast gives Comerica Park the worst HR Park Factor in baseball, as it’s 25% less HR friendly than the league average. This is even worse for left-handed hitters who hit HRs nearly 40% less than league average. It’s not a ballpark that serves Meadows and his flyball-centric skillset well, but Yankee Stadium is completely different case.

This 379-foot flyout hit over 105 MPH doesn’t leave the ballpark, instead serving as a routine flyout for Ramon Lauerano. At Yankee Stadium, this would be a HR, and Austin Meadows can crush plenty of those. In 2021 Meadows had a 113 wRC+ and 27 HRs, and his spray chart shows how perfect his flyball distribution would be in a ballpark like Yankee Stadium, where RF is a bandbox.

There are plenty of long flyouts and doubles that would turn into porch jobs, and Meadows could see a HR total that even surpasses his career-high of 33 that he set in 2019. Extreme flyball hitters are going to struggle with their BA, and Meadows isn’t any different (.259 career average), but he does have a career 9.3% BB% that keeps his OBP between .330-.340, which is above league average. His ISO only took a serious dip in 2022, but that seems like an aberration and not his career norm. His raw power can fluctuate, but in 2021 he reached Max Exit Velocity numbers in the 73rd Percentile and barreled baseballs at a league-average rate.

In 2021 he pulled 25.2% of flyballs, which is a tick above the 24.0% MLB average that season, but perhaps the short porch in RF entices him to be more pull-happy. The Yankees have done this with guys like Anthony Rizzo and Matt Carpenter, who had career bests in ISO and HR/AB rates, and we could see Meadows adopt this philosophy as well.

Steamer is high on Meadows’ power still, having him hitting 20 HRs and slugging .434 despite the previously mentioned poor ballpark to hit at. The Yankees could see 25 HR power and an SLG of .450-.460, which would be a huge addition from the left-handed side to this lineup. Consistent HR power is how you generate efficient offense in the playoffs, and he provides that exact thing for this team. The Yankees already have their middle of the lineup set with Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and Giancarlo Stanton as the 2-3-4 hitters, but Meadows could hit 5th and be that left-handed protection between Stanton and Torres.

The power is definitely enticing, but how versatile can Meadows be for this Yankee offense?

Adding to the Yankees Contact Rates

Austin Meadows has been a great bat to have for limiting strikeouts and undisciplined swings, as outside of 2020, he’s had a whiff rate below 25%, and his chase rate has always been better than league average. He’s a hitter who can work walks and consistently generate contact, which is something the Yankees have valued a lot in their prospects and have tried to incorporate more into their lineup. Acquisitions like Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Anthony Rizzo, and Andrew Benintendi were made with the idea of limiting whiffs, and Meadows could be a continuation of this trend.

anthony rizzo, new york yankees
Aug 30, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo (48) celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the second inning as Los Angeles Angels catcher Max Stassi (33) watches at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Only 34 hitters had a K% below 21% K% and an ISO above .200 in 2021 (min. 300 PAs) which shows off his unique bat-to-ball skills in spite of a power-centric approach, and Meadows hopes to continue that trend in 2022. His whiff rates and chase rates remained excellent in 2022 despite his power being all but erased by Comerica, whiffing just 13.2% of the time in his 36-game sample. He could sacrifice some contact and patience for earlier swing decisions that allow him to get out in front and pull more without running a high strikeout rate, and that makes his profile even better for the Bronx.

The Yankees could lead off Meadows, who’s typically in the 60-65th Percentile in Sprint Speed and can swipe a few bases if need be. If they want to him batting 3rd on days, Rizzo isn’t playing, that could work as well. Wherever the Yankees need him in the totop halff the lineup, he has the skillset for it, and that helps keep the Yankees flexible as a lineup. The bat is just really strong, and with a projected 117 wRC+, he would be the Yankees’ 6th-best hitter in projected wRC+ (excluding Andres Chaparro), deepening them even further.

With his offensive profile perfectly suited for the Bronx, but how can he handle LF?

Providing a Servicable Glove

Austin Meadows has a career -12 DRS and -8 OAA in the outfield, but LF happens to be his best position. With 5 DRS and -3 OAA, it’s hard to tell if he’s a good or lousy defender out there, but it’s safe to say he can hold his own out there. He had 3 DRS in LF this past season, but being roughly league-average in LF at Yankee Stadium is really all he needs to do if he’s hitting well. His arm is underwhelming (32nd Percentile Arm Strength), but his reactions, bursts, and feet covered are above average. Comerica has a vast outfield as well, so for him to play solid defense out, there is impressive.

Don’t expect Meadows to win a gold glove out there, but this isn’t a DH playing LF either, and with Bader and Judge in CF and RF, there’s no reason to believe the Yankees still can’t have a strong defensive outfield with Meadows in LF. It’s not like Oswaldo Cabrera is an elite defensive LF either, so you’re not losing anything substantial defensively by trotting Meadows out there and having his power bat in the lineup. His glove is stable, and that’s really all you need.

With his defensive abilities projecting pretty well for LF in the Bronx, what would it take to get the 27-year-old bat?

Making a Deal and Setting Expectations

The Tigers are not only in a position where they don’t have to trade Meadows, but they’re also in a position where they’d like to add pieces that can help them improve in 2022 and for the future. The Tigers would benefit from young players in the higher levels of MiLB that could make an impact at some point in 2023. The biggest area of concern for the Tigers is their catching, as while Eric Haase and Jake Rogers are solid hitters, they’re both bottom-of-the-barrel defensively. Ben Rortvedt has become rather expendable for the Yankees, and he’d be a great fit for DET.

Ben Rortvedt, yankees

Ben Rortvedt isn’t much of a hitter, but he’s an excellent defender who can handle a young pitching staff and be a reliable everyday catcher who hits 9th every day. He’s someone who also has plenty of club control, and they could easily option Rortvedt if he struggles to find traction at the MLB level. He’s good for a 75-80 wRC+ and elite defense, which could also allow the Tigers to DH Haase a lot and get him more ABs, and he’s also shown he can handle the outfield in a pinch as well. The second piece to this deal would be OF Elijah Dunham, who could give the Tigers a spark during the 2023 season.

Dunham is a prospect who should move into a full-time OF role at Triple-A to start 2023, and his low strikeout rates, good plate discipline, and solid power should get him MLB reps soon. The Tigers could plug him into their outfield in the summer for a spark, and with his combination of solid power and great speed, they could get a 100-105 wRC+ bat with good baserunning to slide into their lineup as they re-configure their position player group. The Tigers had just a 2.5 fWAR as a position player group, good for the worst mark in baseball last year.

The Tigers sorely need position player help, and they’d get two players who can make an impact and have tons of club control for the foreseeable future as well. Yes, they’re trading Meadows, but he won’t factor much in their contention window. Perhaps an arm like Albert Abreu, who the Yankees may not have room for, could fill in as well for the Tiger bullpen, as he showed off signs of being extremely promising still. With a 2.92 FIP and 3.01 SIERA as a Yankee, he excelled at generating groundballs (48.6%) and managed a minuscule 5.6% BB% in his 22 appearances.

  • DET Receives
    • RHP Albert Abreu
    • C Ben Rortvedt
    • OF Elijah Dunham
  • NYY Receives
    • OF Austin Meadows
    • Cash Considerations

The Yankees are getting their 2023 LF, who can provide a force for them in the middle of their lineup, and the Tigers receive players no older than 26 to supplement their bullpen, catching unit, and their outfield depth at the higher levels of MiLB. It’s hard to make mock trades since you don’t know how another organization a player, but this would be a close approximation in terms of player value. In terms of how the Yankees could put together their lineup, it would get significantly deeper.

  1. DJ LeMahieu 3B (119 wRC+)
  2. Aaron Judge RF (163 wRC+)
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B (126 wRC+)
  4. Giancarlo Stanton DH (132 wRC+)
  5. Austin Meadows LF (117 wRC+)
  6. Gleyber Torres 2B (120 wRC+)
  7. Harrison Bader CF (104 wRC+)
  8. Oswald Peraza SS (105 wRC+)
  9. Jose Trevino C (90 wRC+)

They would have a potent lineup that would be projected to do a lot of damage in 2023, something they haven’t been able to do in the postseason. It’s tough to put faith in a player who struggled in 2022 on the field and had injury concerns, but if anyone can battle back from that and return to form, it’s Austin Meadows. Anyone brave enough to go public with mental health issues can take on any challenge in life, and Meadows is no exception. There aren’t concerns as to whether he can handle the Big Apple, just a question of whether the Tigers are willing to move on.

He’s a talented player, and the Tigers won’t just toss him away because the Yankees may want him. There’s a lot to like about the bat he has, and there’s plenty to like about the value he could provide in 2023. One of the few left-handed outfield options potentially available on the market, he might be the best option of them all.

Projections adore Meadows, and his median outcomes would probably increase in an environment far more hitter-friendly than Comerica Park. If he hits to his current projections offensively, the Yankees would be adding someone who finally gives them the consistent offense in LF they haven’t found over the last two seasons. Even in spite of all the trades, the Yankees have gotten just a .207 AVG and 89 wRC+ from their left fielders in that time span. Usually, projecting well is a sign of good things to come in 2023, which is what I’m banking on based on his batted-ball profiles.

  • Austin Meadows 2023 Steamer Projections
    • .247/.324/.434
    • 20 HRs
    • 117 wRC+
    • 9.3% BB%
    • 19.0% K%
    • .188 ISO

A combination of solid contact, solid walk rates, and good power, he’s adding a balanced hitter to the lineup that doesn’t hamper them in any category. Austin Meadows may have conquered the Yankees in the past to the tune of 14 HRs and an .899 OPS, but maybe he could help the Yankees finally conquer their woes in the postseason. He may not be the flashiest player or one that has gotten a ton of attention, but he is the impact left-handed bat that the Yankees are looking for, and he could be part of a team that finally makes it to the World Series for the first time since 2009.

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