Steven Souza

Cubs agree to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

steven_souza.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs agree to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

The Cubs have made a roster move.

According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the Cubs and outfielder Steven Souza have agreed to a one-year, big-league deal. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported Friday the two sides were nearing an agreement.

Souza, 30, missed the 2019 season after suffering a torn left ACL and LCL at the end of spring training. He also missed a chunk of 2018, playing 72 games while hitting the injured list on multiple occasions. The Diamondbacks non-tendered him last month.

Souza is a career .233/.323/.417 hitter with 70 home runs in five seasons. His best campaign came with the Rays in 2017: .239/.351/.459, 30 home runs, 78 RBIs and a 121 wRC+ — all career-bests, excluding his average. He sported a walk rate (13.6 percent) above league average (8.5) that season, though his strikeout rate (29 percent) was worse than average (23).

Signing Souza likely rules out a return of fan favorite outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Cubs have been linked to Castellanos throughout the offseason, but since they're looking to stay under MLB’s luxury tax threshold, re-signing Castellanos would require some financial maneuvering.

Souza has spent most of his career in right field (3,608 career innings) but has minimal experience playing center (33 1/3) and left (20). He’s above average in right (career 6 Defensive Runs Saved) and posted a career best 7 DRS in 2017.

The Cubs have a five-time Gold Glove right fielder in Jason Heyward, so Souza will see time at all three outfield spots. Heyward moved to center full-time last season after the Cubs acquired Castellanos and has played center at times throughout his career.

He's coming off a serious knee injury, but Souza is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Cubs. If he's healthy, he’ll add power to the middle of the order and add another bat to an outfield group with some question marks. Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ have each struggled offensively at times since 2018. Souza offers another option in case those two slump again, with room for a larger role.

Free agent outfielder Steven Souza 'drawing interest' from Cubs, but fit is curious

steven_souza.jpg
USA TODAY

Free agent outfielder Steven Souza 'drawing interest' from Cubs, but fit is curious

Several teams are interested in free agent outfielder Steven Souza and the Cubs are one of them, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.

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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