The Astros plan to release outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who has been in camp with them on a minor league deal, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports. Souza has been vying for the fourth outfielder’s role alongside Jose Siri, Ronnie Dawson and Chas McCormick, but it seems his spring struggles have pushed the team in another direction.
Souza, 31, is 2-for-21 with a homer thus far in Spring Training. He’s drawn five walks and been hit by a pitch in 27 trips to the plate but has also punched out an alarming 13 times in that tiny sample of plate appearances.
Souza’s last full season at the MLB level was quite productive, but it also came back in 2017. He slashed .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs for the Rays that year, prompting the D-backs to swing a trade for him in the offseason. But a pectoral injury limited his time on the field and productivity in 2018, and his 2019 season was wiped out by one of the most catastrophic knee injuries we’ve seen recent memory; Souza suffered tears of his ACL and LCL in play at the plate that also left him with a partial PCL tear and a posterolateral capsule tear. He returned to the big leagues with the Cubs last year but struggled through 31 plate appearances before being cut loose.
The Astros entered the winter with an entire outfield’s worth of free agents, as George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick all hit the market. Springer went to Toronto, Brantley re-signed in Houston, and Reddick remains unsigned. With Brantley back in the fold, the ’Stros are looking at him in left field, Kyle Tucker in right field and speedster Myles Straw as the primary center fielder. McCormick is the likeliest option to break camp as the team’s fourth outfielder, given his ability to play center field and given that he’s the only player in that competition who is already on the team’s 40-man roster.