The Tigers non-tendered Meadows and Turnbull ahead of Friday's 8 p.m. deadline for teams to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players for the 2024 season, making them free agents. Meadows, 28, hasn't played baseball since April 6, 2023, for mental health reasons.
His younger brother, Parker Meadows, is expected to be the Tigers' Opening Day center fielder.
The elder Meadows, who has missed most of the past two seasons while on the injured list with anxiety, was projected to receive $4.3 million in his final year of salary arbitration.
He remains undecided about the future of his playing career.
Turnbull was supposed to be in his final year of arbitration eligibility, but because he didn't earn enough service time last season, that was pushed back a year, with free agency not due until after the 2025 season. He was projected to receive $2.4 million in salary arbitration, but like Meadows, the Tigers chose not to keep him.
The 31-year-old posted a 7.26 ERA with 15 walks and 24 strikeouts over 31 innings in seven starts with the Tigers. He also logged a 6.23 ERA with 11 walks and 30 strikeouts over 26 innings in eight starts with High-A West Michigan and Triple-A Toledo.
Turnbull threw the franchise's eighth no-hitter in May 2021, but suffered an elbow injury soon after and missed all of the 2022 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The relationship between the Tigers and Turnbull was strained from the beginning of the 2023 season because of Turnbull's service time complaints, but at the end of the season, it seemed like the Tigers were going to bring him back.
"We expect him to prepare as a starter this offseason and show up to Lakeland ready to compete for a job in our rotation," Scott Harris, the president of baseball operations, said Oct. 2. "You guys have heard me talk many times about how talented Spencer is. We've seen flashes of it in this organization, what he can do."
The decision to non-tender Meadows wasn't surprising.
The Tigers, under former general manager Al Avila, acquired Meadows from the Tampa Bay Rays in April 2022 in exchange for infielder Isaac Paredes (and the No. 71 draft pick). Meadows, a left-handed hitter and former All-Star, received American League MVP votes in 2019 and 2021 after hitting 33 home runs in 2019 and 27 homers in 2021.
He didn't hit a homer for the Tigers in the 2022-23 seasons.
"Obviously, there's a decision looming in the future," Harris said Nov. 7 at the general manager meetings, "and we're going to have more conversations about that, but there's nothing of substance to share at this point."
Paredes, meanwhile, hit .250 with 31 home runs in 143 games for the Rays in 2023, plus 20 homers in 2022. He received an eighth-place vote on the AL MVP ballot for his performance in 2023.
Meadows — the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 draft — played just 42 games over his two seasons as a Tiger, hitting .240 with 16 walks and 20 strikeouts. He revealed his mental heath struggles for the first time in September 2022.
He competed in six games during the 2023 campaign, playing from March 30-April 6 before stepping away from baseball for the second time in two seasons to focus on his mental health. He returned home to Florida in June, and the Tigers replaced the nameplate on his locker in the clubhouse at the beginning of September.
"I worked really hard this offseason to get back to being me," Meadows said April 1. "It's a really long season, and I got to stay consistent. The main thing is being able to stay on the field and stay healthy. When I'm able to do that, I'm able to help the team in a lot of different ways."
The Tigers paid Meadows $4 million for 36 games in 2022 and $4.3 million for six games in 2023. He was on the injured list for anxiety in both seasons.
His younger brother, Parker, made his MLB debut with the Tigers in August 2023. The 24-year-old hit .232 with three home runs, 17 walks and 37 strikeouts across 37 games. He had eight stolen bases in nine attempts and played elite defense in center field.
Before Friday's deadline, the Tigers tendered contracts to the other four arbitration-eligible players: left-hander Tarik Skubal, right-hander Casey Mize, catcher Jake Rogers and outfielder Akil Baddoo.
Players on the 40-man roster with fewer than six years of MLB service time need to be tendered contracts each offseason. A player must accrue at least three years of service time — or qualify for Super Two status — to be eligible for arbitration.
Arbitration-eligible players with tendered contracts have until Jan. 12 to negotiate salaries with the Tigers. If the two sides can't agree, an arbitration hearing will be scheduled for February to determine which side wins the case.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers non-tender Austin Meadows, Spencer Turnbull