Former Rays and Diamondbacks outfielder Steven Souza Jr. is running at 100 percent and drawing interest from a handful of teams as he looks to bounce back from a devastating knee injury, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets. Souza underwent surgery in April after tearing the ACL, LCL, PCL and posterolateral capsule in his left knee in a gruesome and gut-wrenching injury at home plate at the end of Spring Training. Per Morosi, the Rays, Giants, Cubs and Rangers are among the teams who’ve shown interest.
That report paints a fair bit of overlap between the markets for Souza and Nicholas Castellanos — he’s reported to be interested in signing with the Giants, Cubs or Rangers — though it’s doubtful that any club has Souza ranked ahead of Castellanos (beyond teams whose payroll simply won’t accommodate Castellanos). That said, Souza could certainly be a fallback option for a team that misses out on Castellanos and/or fellow right-handed-hitting corner outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
Looking at the teams listed, the budget-conscious Rays are reportedly hoping to reel in a right-handed bat and assuredly won’t spend at the level required for Castellanos or Ozuna. But they’re plenty familiar with Souza, his makeup, clubhouse presence and on-field upside. Souza spent three seasons in Tampa Bay before being traded to Arizona, but it’s fair to wonder whether he’d be amenable to playing his first season post-surgery on the artificial surface at Tropicana Field.
The Cubs, operating in a decidedly non-Cubs manner over the past two winters, are reportedly looking to shed payroll to avoid a second slap on the wrist for luxury tax purposes. They paid out $7.6MM in luxury fees this year but seem motivated to avoid a second year of taxation despite the fact that a second-year offense would only see their penalty level increase from 20 percent to 30 percent. Nearly every report out of Chicago this offseason has signaled that a Castellanos reunion is far-fetched, but Souza would represent a more affordable option with some upside.
Meanwhile, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said prior to the offseason that adding power to a lineup that was largely devoid of home run threats would be a priority this winter. A healthy Souza fits that description and also fits with the slate of short-term signings the Giants have made under Zaidi.
The Rangers moved on from Nomar Mazara during the Winter Meetings and traded Delino DeShields this past weekend, creating some space in the outfield. They’re a largely left-handed club, so Souza’s right-handed bat could hold some appeal if other options (Castellanos in particular) don’t pan out.
Souza, 31 in April, was worth about four wins above replacement in 2017 when he hit .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 21 doubles, two triples and 16 stolen bases (in 20 tries). He’s graded out as a strong defender in right field, per metrics like Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average, although coming off such a major knee reconstruction, there’ll surely be some skepticism about his mobility and how well he’ll be able to track down fly balls.