Reclamation projects: 5 free agent hitters and 4 pitchers the Blue Jays should pursue

Which previously struggling players should the Blue Jays take a chance on in free agency that could bring surprising value to the ballclub in 2024?

Cleveland Guardians v Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Guardians v Detroit Tigers / Duane Burleson/GettyImages
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Austin Meadows

A former first-round pick of the Pirates in 2013, Austin Meadows was always destined for a bright future due to his hitting prowess. His career finally took off after he was traded by the Pirates in a package including pitcher Tyler Glasnow and prospect Shane Baz to the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Chris Archer. That trade certainly turned out to be one of the worst trades ever by the Pirates, as Archer amounted to almost nothing, while all three that ended up heading the Rays’ way prospered.

More importantly, Meadows had his breakout season in 2019 when he compiled a solid .291 batting average, .922 OPS, 144 OPS+, 83 runs scored, 29 doubles, 7 triples, 33 home runs, 89 RBI and 12 stolen bases. He would have one more strong season in 2021 when he tallied a career high 106 RBI before he was ultimately traded to the Detroit Tigers in 2022. That was when his promising career became derailed due to a slew of illnesses and injuries, including COVID, vertigo, inner ear infection, and Achilles tendinitis.

More recently, Meadows has stepped away from the game as he has been dealing with anxiety issues. As a result, in his two seasons with the Tigers, he managed to get into only 42 games and hit .248 with a .655 OPS, along with 9 runs scored, 7 doubles, no home runs and 13 RBI. In the end, the Tigers non-tendered him during this offseason, making him available in free agency. If Meadows manages to overcome his anxiety issues, then the Jays should consider taking a flyer on him given his prominent run production and the ability to play all of the outfield positions in the past. At only the young age of 28, hopefully Meadows will be able to get his career back on track.