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The Arizona Diamondbacks trade for OF Steven Souza Jr.: My thoughts on the trade and the players going to and from the Diamondbacks

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Here are my 2 cents on this trade.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays
Unfortunately for Souza, he will have to pick a new jersey number since 20 is retired.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After losing J.D. Martinez to free agency, the Diamondbacks acted quickly to revamp their outfield. The first move was signing Jarrod Dyson, a glove-first outfielder with terrific speed, to a two-year, $7.5M contract on Monday. The following day, they swung a 3-team trade with the Yankees and Rays to acquire RF Steven Souza Jr. and pitching prospect Taylor Widener at the cost of 2B Brandon Drury, pitching prospect Anthony Banda, and 2 players to be named later. Banda and the 2 PTBNL could swing the trade in the Rays favor 3 years down the road, but the Diamondbacks made out pretty well in the trade.

The Steven Souza trade will likely go down as the signature move in regards to the 2017-2018 offseason. The team gave up a top 5 prospect in Banda and a player with average starter upside in Drury while getting a pitcher in Widener that I figure will slide into the Top 10. Those two PBTNL could be troublesome if those names include Jose Almonte, Cody Reed, or Andy Yerzy. The move also takes Yasmany Tomas out of the regular lineup, to the glee of many Diamondbacks fans, and possibly off the 25-man roster overall. Given how the bench looks, there isn’t a reason to keep him around.

I already expressed my thoughts on Dyson, although that came before the trade. Dyson should be a semi-regular that should spell Pollock and Souza in the outfield as well as provide insurance to all three spots in case of an injury. The team’s outfield is very balanced with the four outfielders expected to play the majority of 2018 all grading above average defensively and on the bases. While none of them will match Martinez’s homer barrage with the Diamondbacks, they are more well-rounded in their value.

Souza is never going to hit for a high average, but he provides plenty of sources for offense. Souza saw a breakout in 2017, posting a 120 wRC+ off a .220 ISO and a 13.6% walk rate. In addition, he ranked 50th in Barrels/PA (6.6%) amongst MLB hitters with 190 Batted Ball Events and 28th in Barrels/BBE (11.8%), showing that he’s above average to the rest of MLB in terms of doing damage on the balls he puts into play. For those concerned about his .239 batting average I have two reasons why you can relax. The first is that Tropicana Field is a pitcher-friendly stadium and the second is you should read this great fanpost by shoewizard in which he projects Souza’s triple slash moving to Chase Field’s hitter-friendly park. Not only does he provide value with the bat, he is also a solid defender in right field. He rated well in terms of range and arm with DRS and UZR, although he can be prone to boneheaded plays at the time.

The biggest flaw in his game is strikeouts. Souza’s strikeout rate is well over 30% of his career, although last season he cut it down to 29%. Looking deeper into those numbers, there are encouraging signs. He’s become more selective at the plate, which led to a career high walk rate. He posted his best swinging strike rate over a full season with a 13.3% and lowest chase rate with 24.4% O-Swing rate. The job of a hitter is to make as few as outs as possible and Souza does a good job of doing that with a .351 OBP. His maturation as a hitter is especially notable since the Dbacks control him for the next three seasons. If he can show his progress in 2017 was the next step as a player, then this deal will come out as a massive win for the Diamondbacks.

The other player coming to Arizona is pitching prospect Taylor Widener. Widener slides into the #4 of my rankings with Daulton Varsho sliding up to the #3 spot previously held by Banda. The reports on him is that he has a plus fastball and an above average slider that flashes plus. That gives him the floor of a back-end reliever should he be unable to develop a 3rd pitch. If Widener develops a solid change-up, his ceiling is a #2 starter. The biggest flags on him were knee and back injuries that plagued him in college and caused him to be drafted in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. He was healthy in the 2017 season and was able to make 27 starts although the Yankees limited his innings to 119 over the season. Souza is the headliner in the deal, but if Widener reaches his potential and settles into the Dbacks rotation in 2-3 seasons it could turn into a massive win for the Diamondbacks.

In order to get value, you have to give up value in the trade. Drury, in my opinion, is the lesser of the two players considering that the team soured on him late last season. Drury is not a liability in the field, but does have limited upside in his offensive game. I had him projected to start at 2B before the trade, but it looks like either Chris Owings or Nick Ahmed will fill that void in the starting lineup. Drury had solid numbers in the minors, but the limited power potential and lack of walks made him more prone to peaks and valleys than other players. The Yankees had been linked to him as early as December as a stopgap option for their infield prospects to give them more seasoning in AAA and delay starting their service time clocks. I do think Drury will provide the Yankees more value than he could in Arizona as a 15 HR, 40 doubles player near the bottom of their order.

Trading Banda hurts the team’s starting pitching depth and relies on the current starting five to stay healthy for a good chunk of the first half of the season. Banda’s velocity sat in the mid 90s in 2017 with a good breaking ball, both a cutter and curve. However watching Banda, the sum was not better than the parts. A lefty that averages 94 MPH has utility for any club, especially as a starter. His strike zone command always seemed to lag behind the control numbers, which is why Banda gave up a lot of hits and runs when he reached AAA and his brief stint in the majors. He’ll have plenty of time to develop with the rebuilding Rays, where he can learn to throw strikes on the edges of the zone. Of the top 3 pitching prospects in the organization prior to the trade, I thought Banda had the largest variance of outcomes which is not necessarily a good thing.

The two players to be named later that are going to the Rays are a bit of a scary proposition due to fear of the unknown. So far, we’ve gotten two reports regarding those PTBNLs. John Gambadoro is reporting that both players aren’t Top 20 prospects, although I’m not sure which list he’s basing it off of. Keith Law has stated the two PTBNLs are throw-in guys. I have no clue which report is right or wrong here, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Overall the Diamondbacks should be a much better team. Of their starting 7 position players other than catcher, the team should have average or better defenders at the spot. The team also increased its speed in the outfield, which combined with the implementation of a humidor, should help the pitching staff in preventing runs. The team has stolen base threats all over the order and guys who can fly around the bases, which should make the overall viewing experience more fun as the Diamondbacks scheme up ways to create runs. The moves over the last week may also have extended the window of contention an extra season as well because the team has options in case A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin walk after the season. I also commend GM Mike Hazen for having a Plan B to JD in place and executed it to perfection within a 24-hour window, the Diamondbacks are in good hands with him in charge.