Rays talking contract extension with Austin Meadows

"I would definitely be open to something like that,'' said Meadows, a 2019 All-Star. Tyler Glasnow has also had some talks.
Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Austin Meadows (17) bats against the Baltimore Orioles during a spring training baseball game Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Sarasota, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Austin Meadows (17) bats against the Baltimore Orioles during a spring training baseball game Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Sarasota, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]
Published March 8, 2020|Updated March 8, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE — Austin Meadows accomplished a lot last season, earning a regular spot in the Rays lineup, selection to the American League All-Star team and team co-MVP honors.

Also, the opportunity to sign a lucrative, long-term deal.

The Rays have initiated talks with Meadows about a contract extension, and he told the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday he is eager to hear them out.

“I definitely would be open to something like that,’’ he said. “There has been some initial stuff, but that's kind of it. Numbers and stuff haven't really been discussed. Obviously, the extension has been brought up. We’ll see how it kind of plays out and see where it goes.’’

Meadows is one of several players the Rays have or will approach in what is something of a rite of spring to discuss extensions prior to the regular season.

Pitcher Tyler Glasnow said his representatives had initial talks with the Rays. Shortstop Willy Adames and pitcher Ryan Yarbrough said they have not had any yet this spring, but would be open to talk if approached. Pitcher Yonny Chirinos is another potential candidate.

There could be others from their large group of players not yet eligible for arbitration, though it seems unlikely that would include, at this time anyway, rookie two-way player Brendan McKay or consensus top prospect Wander Franco, the just-turned-19-year-old shortstop who has yet to play above the Class A level.

Glasnow, acquired with Meadows in a July 2018 trade with Pittsburgh, said he hadn’t thought that much about it, but didn’t sound overly interested.

“Sure I’d listen, but definitely I don’t want to sell myself short by any means and also I don’t want to ask for the moon,’’ Glasnow said. “I have no problem going year-to-year, or doing something like (a long-term deal). But I haven’t thought a lot about it in depth.’’

The framework for a deal with Meadows, 24, in terms of years and dollars, is not clear, which obviously is the key to advancing negotiations. The Rays talk often about wanting to keep their young core together, but don’t comment on ongoing or potential negotiations, and wouldn’t Sunday.

They signed two players to extensions last spring, and Meadows likely would slot in somewhere between the guaranteed $24 million over six years they gave Brandon Lowe (plus at least $22 million for two option years), and the $50 million they guaranteed pitcher Blake Snell over five years.

There could be other factors. The Rays don’t give no-trade protection, which what some players want. And in return for guaranteeing salaries through the player’s arbitration years, the Rays typically insist on team options to buy out at least a year or two of free agency, which some players don’t want to do.

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Meadows has just under 1½ years of service time, meaning with no extension he remains subject to the Rays fairly rigid pay structure for pre-arbitration players. He made $557,400 last season and will get a small raise to slightly above the new $563,500 minimum for this season, and just a little more in 2021.

Where he goes from there will depend on remaining healthy and productive, which is where the gamble for both sides comes in on a long-term deal. Also, there could be a new compensation system in the new collective bargaining agreement that starts in 2022.

For several reasons, specific comparisons are hard to make.

Former Rays outfielder Tommy Pham made $4.1 million and $7.9 million for his first two arbitration years and could jump to around $12 million in 2021. Mets outfielder Mike Conforto is on a similar track. Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is making $8.5 million this season, his first of arbitration eligibility.

At the high end, White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez is guaranteed $43 million over six years ($29 million over three arbitration years) with two options for $33 million total.

Meadows said there will be a lot of factors if talks advance to a point of decision, starting with input from his wife, Alexis, and family, who all were at Sunday’s game.

“There’s a lot obviously that goes into an extension, seeing how comfortable they feel, seeing how comfortable we would be,’’ he said. “Obviously depending on how long the terms are. It’s a big commitment, one of the biggest you’ll make in your career.’’

Meadows, who is from Georgia, said he greatly enjoys playing for the Rays and living in the Tampa Bay area, having recently bought a fishing boat he plans to spend lots of time on. “I love everything about being here,’’ he said.

Also, that he considers just being approached about an extension something of an accomplishment.

“It’s a good situation for sure,’’ he said. “Especially as a young player, especially for me personally, being able to do what I did last year and them willing to come to me with an extension, and willing to make a commitment to me long-term.

“As a player, you strike to get to those type of talks. Obviously, the No. 1 priority in the minor leagues is to be a big leaguer and obviously having an extension in place would definitely be something you always work towards, and try to stay here as long as you can.’’

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.