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Diamondbacks Non-Tender Joseph, Souza, Taijuan Walker

A number of surprises at the non-tender deadline

Arizona Diamondbacks v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks have parted ways (at least for now) with back-up catcher Caleb Joseph and outfielder Steven Souza, Jr. The Diamondbacks elected to non-tender both players. The decision to non-tender Joseph was almost a certainty. The back-up catcher was expected to earn about $1.2 million going through the arbitration process. While that sum is not much, the high chance that Joseph would spend the entirety of 2020 in AAA-Reno means the team might be better off with a back-up catcher on a minor league deal.

On a slightly more surprising note, the team also parted ways with Steven Souza, Jr. That move will save the team an estimated $4.125 million in 2020. Although somewhat surprising given the team’s outfield depth concerns and the state of the free agent market, the move is hardly far from justified. Since being acquired in a deal during the winter of 2017, Souza’s time in the dessert has been plagued by injuries and low performance. In two full seasons since the trade, Souza has only appeared in 72 games - all of them in 2018. In those games, some of which were clearly hampered by nagging injury, Souza tallied a .220/.309/.369 triple-slash, hardly the impact power bat that the team hoped he would be when they sent off Brandon Drury and Anthony Banda as part of a three-team deal to land Souza and Taylor Widener. Given the catastrophic nature of Souza’s knee injury just prior to the start of the 2019 season, there were concerns as to whether or not Souza would be up to playing as a full-time outfielder, especially on artificial turf. While reports of Souza’s rehab process have all been very positive, it seems the team is less than convinced of the outfielder’s durability as they try to piece together a new outfield around Ketel Marte.

Potentially as surprising as non-tendering Souza was that Arizona has not yet chosen to non-tender Jake Lamb. Of the three players, Lamb seemed a strong candidate for non-tender, more so than Souza. It seems that the team is still hoping Jake Lamb can find his power stroke again, providing a left-handed power bat off the bench and some spot starts at first and third in order to give Eduardo Escobar and Christian Walker days off. Lamb is slated to make about $5 million in 2020.

Today’s announcements do not preclude a reunion of the team with Souza or Joseph, though it seems unlikely that Souza will return. Given the state of the free agent market for outfielders, he will probably get a few offers. This does, however, mean that the team will have Jake Lamb around for a while longer. The team could still part ways with Lamb via trade or release. Should they choose to release him, they will be on the hook for a termination fee. Given that they did not keep Souza around in that manner to see if he could rebound, it seems unlikely that there are any plans to cut bait with Lamb just yet.

Late Addendum

The Diamondbacks have also elected to non-tender starting pitcher, Taijuan Walker. This is a surprising move, given the depth issues facing the Arizona rotation. While it is true that Walker will be facing something of an innings limitation in 2020, he has been an above average starter in his career and is fully expected to be the pitcher he was before injury forced him into Tommy John surgery. This move saves the team an estimated $5.025 million for 2020. The move also means that there will be even more pressure on the likes of Luke Weaver and Alex Young to provide a substantial number of quality innings. That will be no small task as Weaver, like Walker, is returning from major injury and Young is still straddling the line between being a back-of-the-rotation left-handed starter or a strong complement to Andrew Chafin as a bullpen lefty.