The Chicago Cubs are on the brink of finally handing out a major league contract for the 2020 season, agreeing to a deal with outfielder Steven Souza Jr.
Almost three months after the World Series ended, the Chicago Cubs may finally be handing out a major league contract to a free agent. According to Ken Rosenthal, the team is nearing a deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. This move would correspond with their move of outrighting CD Pelham earlier in the day, which opened up a 40-man roster spot.
Souza, who will be 31 in April, did not play at all in the majors in 2019 due to injury. He last played in the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018, in a season which was limited to 72 games due to injury. That year, his slash line was a modest .220/.309/.369, as he hit five home runs and drove in 29.
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Before that, the right-handed hitting outfielder spent three seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. His best season was in 2017, when he posted an OPS of .810 and hit 30 home runs. Strikeouts were a concern, as he whiffed 179 times, but he still was a solid offensive player who mainly played right field and could also play a little center. He’s also shown an ability to be a decent defender.
The Diamondbacks non-tendered Souza earlier this offseason as he was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $4.125 million in his final year of arbitration. Though the Cubs are finally signing someone to a big league deal, this news isn’t likely to cheer up most of the Cubs fans who are disgruntled over the lack of moves this offseason.
It’s hard to know what Souza’s role will be with the Cubs in 2020, and it’s no guarantee that he’ll even make the team. If he can rediscover his 2017 form, he’d be a nice addition to the lineup. He could play right field and prompt Jason Heyward to move to center, as he did with the addition of Nicholas Castellanos in 2019. If nothing else, this move puts a little more pressure on Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ to produce this spring if they want to earn significant playing time this year.
This move isn’t likely to be a game-changer for the Cubs as they try to return to the top of the National League Central division under first-year manager David Ross in 2020. But like several of the team’s minor acquisitions this offseason, there is low risk and the potential for high reward. We’ll see if Souza can rediscover his pre-2018 form.