Over the weekend, we asked if the team should non-tender three potential candidates currently on the 2020 roster: Jake Lamb, Steven Souza and Caleb Joseph. According to the SnakePit, perhaps they can get a group discount on tickets to Greenland, as none of the three were deemed keeping on the roster with 74% for Lamb, 59% for Souza and 58% for Joseph voting them off the Diamondbacks’ island. The deadline for a decision by Mike Hazen and the front-office on whether or not to tender them passed at 5pm Arizona time, and it appears the team will be letting Souza and Joseph walk. But it seems they will not be the only ones.
Can confirm reports that the Diamondbacks have nontendered outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and catcher Caleb Joseph and am told those are not the club’s only nontenders. More to come. (@ZHBuchanan and @masnRoch were first.)— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) December 2, 2019
Souza had been acquired before the 2018 season, but poor health dogged the outfielder. He was limited to just 72 games in total for Arizona, none of them in the past season, which ended with knee surgery, following an injury while running the bases in the pre-season. His time on the D-backs ends with an OPS+ of 79, and -0.3 bWAR. This does appear to leave the team with a large outfield hole, since there are just three true outfielders now present on the 40-man roster: Ketel Marte, Tim Locastro and David Peralta. I would therefore presume moves will follow in the off-season to provide coverage there.
Joseph signed as a free agent last February, and the catcher appeared in just twenty games for the D-backs, a career low. He had just 41 PA, and probably saved the best for last catching the 1-0 shutout by the D-backs in the final game of 2019. He batted .211 with a .513 OPS. and the writing was probably on the wall for Joseph with the signing recently by Arizona of another catcher, Steven Vogt. Of course, he and/or Souza may still end up signed by the team as free agents. This move just means the team is not obliged to go through the arbitration process with them, and can offer them a lower salary. But the player is also under no obligation to accept it.
Jake Lamb will not be nontendered, I’m told.— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) December 3, 2019
The surprises were elsewhere, not least the decision to retain corner infielder Jake Lamb, who stays one of the longest-tenured Diamondbacks. Only David Peralta and Nick Ahmed made their MLB debuts here longer ago than Lamb, who first appeared on August 7, 2014. Jake was an All-Star in 2017, but hit only .204 after the break, and the slump continued through last year and this. Lamb had an OPS+ of 74 and 76 in 2018/19. With Eduardo Escobar apparently now entrenched at third and Christian Walker at first, it seemed Lamb may have become a player without a spot. But the team appears to have thought otherwise and is holding onto Jake.
The news that Taijuan Walker is being released is a definite surprise, and comes just as he was returning from Tommy John surgery. He made a token appearance for the D-backs at the end of the season, and was expected to be in the mix for a rotation spot in the 2020 campaign. But he was going to be expensive, projected to earn north of five million dollars. And there’s no real way to be sure how his arm would hold up over the stress of a full season. The team no doubt has far more detailed information on that than we do, and we presume they did not expect to get value back from Walker in 2020.
Based on the MLB Trade Rumors estimates, the pair of future endeavors announced so far will save the team $10.35 million in anticipated payroll for next year. We’ll update as appropriate if any more news comes out. I’m still holding out for a Matt Andriese ticket to Greenland... :)