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Unpacking the Steven Souza trade

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#NoMartinez #NoProblem

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Tampa Bay Rays v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

What the Diamondbacks get

Well, we did talk about getting an outfielder from the Rays, didn’t we? Just not this outfielder. For the centerpiece of the deal, as far as the Diamondbacks are concerned, is right-fielder Steven Souza. The 28-year-old showed impressive power for Tampa last year, hitting 30 home-runs, while also showing some speed on the basepaths (16 SB in 20 attempts). His average was low, at .239, but his plate discipline improved markedly, with a walk-rate of 13.6% (MLB average is 8.0%). That helped get his on-base percentage up to a very respectable .351. The K-rate was high, at 29.0% (MLB = 20.9%), but that 2017 figure was a significant improvement.

The defensive metrics are a little unsure of what to make of him: two of the three main stats graded him as a positive contributor in right last year, while the other had him slightly below average. However, playing him there will then allow David Peralta to move back to left field, which appears to be where the team want him. With that power, I can see Souza slotting in behind Paul Goldschmidt in the batting order. While also a right-handed hitter, his career splits are almost non-existent. Souza’s OPS is just six points better against left-handed pitching, so there’s no reason he should not be in the starting line-up almost everyday.

As has already been noted by several people, the level of production Souza delivered last year overall was very comparable to a certain other outfielder of note:

Now, that’s not necessarily sustainable - but neither is J.D. Martinez’s 2017 production. Considering that Souza will earn about $3.5 million next year, and Martinez $25 million or so, it’s an eye-popping comparison. Souza is also under team control for 2019 and 2020, and though he will become more expensive, will still be far cheaper - and, of course, is also close to two years younger.

Not to be considered as merely a throw-in is Taylor Widener. He was originally a reliever, but moved to the rotation in 2017. In his age 22 season, he made 27 starts at the High-A level of the Yankees’ farm system, going 7-8 with a 3.39 ERA. His K:BB ratio was 129:50 in 119.1 innings, which is not a bad K-rate. He ranked third for strikeouts in the Florida State League, but was fourth for walks. Coincidentally, his manager at Tampa was a name we should recognize: former Diamondback Jay Bell. Here’s an interview with Widener from last month.

What the D-backs gave up

The two areas in which the Diamondbacks appeared to have trade chips were the middle infield and starting pitching, and they used elements from both to pull off this trade. There were, effectively, four players for two everyday starting positions at 2B and SS: as well as Brandon Drury, we still have Nick Ahmed, Ketel Marte and Chris Owings. We had hoped Drury would take a step forward in 2017, but his OPS+ actually decreased, going from 101 to 89, despite having a regular job at second (109 starts there in 2017, compared to 2016, where he had 25 or more at three different positions, two of them in the outfield, an unfamiliar area for Brandon). The rise of Marte may have rendered Drury superfluous.

Anthony Banda was recently ranked as Arizona’s #5 prospect (and #3 pitcher) for 2018 by John Sickels. However, he had been the #1 overall prospect on the same ranking the previous year, and struggled at Reno in 2017 putting up a 5.39 ERA there, with a K:BB of 116:51 over 122 innings. He did make his major-league debut, but had a 5.96 ERA, though his FIP was considerably better at 3.24. It seems the team has opted to go with Patrick Corbin instead in 2018. However, this move does leave our rotation feeling quite thin, and of course, Corbin will be a free-agent at the end of the year, so will need to be replaced or extended for the 2019 campaign.

There are also two players to be named later going to the Rays, but the word is that neither of those are top 20 prospects for Arizona. They probably won’t move the needle much in either direction on this trade.

Impact elsewhere on the Diamondbacks

The Opening Day rotation appears solidified as Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, Taijuan Walker and Patrick Corbin. Shelby Miller should return later in the season, and could replace Corbin in 2019 - Miller is a free-agent at the end of that season. However, as ever, return from Tommy John can never be presumed, let alone achieving any given previous level of form. If something happens to one of those starting pitchers mentioned above, between now and Opening Day, there would be a significant drop off for the Diamondbacks. Braden Shipley is likely the current #6: after him on the 40 man roster it’s... uh, Matt Koch, or starters turned relievers like Albert Suarez and Randall Delgado.

Potential 2018 starting line-up (vs. RHP)

  1. A.J. Pollock, CF
  2. David Peralta, LF
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Steven Souza, RF
  5. Jake Lamb, 3B
  6. Chris Owings, 2B
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Ketel Marte, SS

Lamb, Peralta and Avila are left-handed hitters, and Marte is a switch-hitter so that’s not unbalanced. Owings would become the everyday second-baseman, so in terms of players already on the roster, he would be the biggest winner from this deal. There’s no doubt about who the biggest loser is: Yasmany Tomas now appears to be a player without a position, after the Diamondbacks signed one outfielder and traded for another within the space of little more than 24 hours. What will happen to him remains to be seen. He’s currently still scheduled to be the highest earning position player on the team this year, earning $13.5 million. But he may end up being the most well-paid man in AAA.

Here’s the usual poll about such things. Explain your choice of rating in the comments!


The Banda/Drury for Souza trade is...

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  • 25%
    (194 votes)
  • 61%
    (470 votes)
  • 10%
    (77 votes)
  • 1%
    (15 votes)
  • 1%
    (9 votes)
765 votes total Vote Now