Tampa Bay Rays: Time is Now to Sign Austin Meadows to a Long-Term Extension

Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Rays have a wealth of young talent on their roster. Today we look at one star they should sign to an extension now.

The Tampa Bay Rays are notorious for trading highly productive players away within a year or two of their impending free agency in order to re-stock the farm system. The Rays are coming off of two consecutive 90-win seasons and currently hold the top farm system in the game.

With news that the Rays have reached out to Austin Meadows regarding an extension, we dive into why this deal needs to happen.

The Rays are in a position to challenge any team in the league with a legitimate shot at winning a series. They have a blend of elite pitching in both the bullpen and the rotation, finishing with the number one overall ERA in the American League last season despite two of their three aces missing significant time.

Blake Snell was only able to compete in 107 innings and Tyler Glasnow was on a pace through his 12 starts that put him in Gerrit Cole‘s company. In fact, Glasnow’s  2.3 WAR over 60.2 innings averages out to a 7.6 WAR over 200 innings. That would have been good for number one in the league, 0.2 points better than Gerrit Cole.

Their offense has been built around a lot of very good players who don’t command national attention (for various reasons) and budding superstars.

The former of the group are platoon guys whom the Rays deftly get maximum value out of by exploiting matchups on a daily basis. The latter consists of a short-list, headlined by 24-year-old Austin Meadows.

2019 Stats
WAR: 3.8
AVG: .291
OBP: .364
SLG: .558
OPS: 922
Games: 138
AB:  530
R: 83
2B: 29
3B: 7
HR: 33
RBI: 89
BB: 54
SB: 12
CS: 7
SO: 131
OPS+: 143

The Rays are not in a position to lose a true everyday player who finished 14th in MVP voting last season. They need to take a page out of the Braves’ handbook, lock him down and build the future around players like him and Tyler Glasnow.

The Brave Approach

The past several years the Braves have locked down key players by buying out their arbitration years and tacking on a few extra years at an extremely reasonable price. The strategy can create very good bargains for young, star players and provides guaranteed contracts and some certainty to the young stars’ futures.

The Braves recently made headlines by signing their young dynamic duo to a pair of long-term extensions. Last offseason the Braves inked a deal with Ronald Acuna for 10-year (including team options), $124 million. Acuna became the youngest player to ever sign a $100 million contract. The Braves bought out his arbitration-eligible years and are set to pay him $17 million per year during his prime seasons.

The trade-off for Acuna makes all the sense in the world.

"“No, I have no regrets,” Acuña said through a translator. “No one can see the future. No one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, so I’m extremely happy with the decision we’ve all made and I’m just excited to be here.”"

Value to the Player

A similar deal was struck with Albies but at a much lower value. The players don’t have to worry about security or injuries destroying their futures. While the average annual value looks a lot lower, they are getting raises earlier on in their careers. More money early on can equal a lot more money down the road thanks to that compound interest thing. Also, most players don’t get to free agency with a $30+ million price tag attached to them.

Value to the Team

The team walks away with a fantastic value on a star player. Teams that act on extensions don’t have to pay $35 million a year to a 30-year-old free agent star, they’ve already got it locked down because they took care of their young players.

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Austin Meadows is a star and the Rays love a good value. If they can lock him down with a deal similar to Acuna’s, he’s going to provide a great return compared to the rest of the market for players of his ilk. The time is now with their farm system locked and loaded for years to come. The window to compete can be extended by committing to players like Austin Meadows right now.