Chicago Cubs: How the Steven Souza Jr. signing helps team

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs made their first major-league transaction this offseason, signing Steven Souza Jr. to a one-year deal pending a physical.

Per reports, the Chicago Cubs have agreed to a one-year deal with Steven Souza Jr., and the former Arizona Diamondback has the potential to be a valued asset. He’s had a bit of bad luck the last two seasons, missing a considerable amount of time in 2018 due to a pectoral injury and all of 2019 with a torn ACL. However, he played in 148 games during the 2017 season, with the Tampa Bay Rays, and posted incredible numbers.

While the .239 batting average is not impressive, his .810 OPS suggests that he was excellent at getting on base and made his hits count. Souza smacked 30 home runs and drove in 78 RBI (119 OPS+), and when healthy, provides excellent depth for a Cubs’ outfield that sorely needs it. He’s primarily been a right-fielder in his career, logging a .984 fielding percentage in over 3600.0 innings.

The Cubs have struggled to get consistent production from their outfield over the last two seasons, with both Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward proving to be inconsistent and Albert Almora regressing substantially. Schwarber posted a terrific second half of the 2019 season, as did Ian Happ, who was recalled from Triple-A Iowa, but neither has shown the ability to produce over the course of a full season.

Daniel Descalso was believed to be that valued bench bat last year, after posting a .789 OPS with 13 home runs and 57 RBI in 2018, but he struggled to stay healthy and posted a miserable .173 batting average in 82 games with the team. I was a bit surprised the Cubs chose to bring both Almora and Descalso back in 2019.

The latter was initially signed a two-year deal worth just $5 million before the 2019 season, and the Cubs could have eaten the remaining $3.5 million he was owed, including a $1 million buyout. Again, Souza can provide some thump and depth to the Cubs roster that severely lacked it last year. He indicated that he is 100 percent healthy, running at full speed as well as lateral movements, which is critical in the rehabilitation of knee injuries.

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He was linked to the Cubs back in the middle of December, and the signing of Souza should effectively end all hope of a Nicholas Castellanos return. A strong argument can be made that Happ and Souza’s production, together, could replicate what Castellanos did in the second half for the north siders, but time will tell.