Several teams are interested in free agent outfielder Steven Souza and the Cubs are one of them, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.
Free agent Steven Souza Jr., a 30-HR hitter for the Rays in 2017, is running, hitting and throwing at 100% intensity following April surgery on his left knee. Source says he’s drawing interest from the Rangers, Rays, Cubs and Giants. Good bounce-back candidate. @MLBNetwork @MLB— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 19, 2019
Souza, 30, missed all last season after tearing his left ACL and LCL at the end of spring training with the Diamondbacks. He played 72 games in 2018, hitting the injured list on multiple occasions with a right pec strain.
Two seasons ago, however, Souza had a career year with the Rays. He played in 148 games, slashed .239/.351/.459, hit 30 home runs with 78 RBIs and sported a 121 wRC+. His walk rate was solid (13.6 percent) but he struck out 29 percent of the time.
Last season, the league-wide averages for those same categories were 8.5 and 23 percent, respectively. So, in a career-year two seasons ago, Souza walked at a decent clip (84 free passes) but struck out a lot, too (179 whiffs).
Souza’s fit with the Cubs (as currently constructed) is curious. He’s primarily a right fielder (3,608 career innings) and has limited experience playing center (33 1/3) and left (20). He’s above average in right (6 career Defensive Runs Saved) and had his best season defensively in 2017 (7 DRS).
The Cubs have a five-time Gold Glove Award winner in right fielder in Jason Heyward. Heyward moved to center field full-time in 2019 after the Cubs acquired Nicholas Castellanos, but Theo Epstein admitted last week the team prefers to keep him in right. Kyle Schwarber is coming off a dominant offensive second half of 2019, so left isn’t open, either.
Therefore, it’s highly unlikely the Cubs would sign Souza and ask him to play left or right, so long as Schwarber and Heyward are on the roster. Center is the Cubs’ primary focus this offseason, but internal candidates — Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner — exist. Plus, Kris Bryant, Daniel Descalso and Tony Kemp can play outfield.
Souza is a good bounce back candidate for 2020, but with how the Cubs are currently constructed, he has a better chance for playing time elsewhere.
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