The Houston Astros have signed outfielder Steven Souza Jr to a minor league deal.
Even with Michael Brantley back in the fold, outfield depth is a concern for the Houston Astros. With that in mind, the team has signed veteran outfielder Steven Souza Jr to a minor league deal, giving them a potentially potent bat off the bench.
Souza appeared in 11 games for the Cubs in 2020, hitting just .148/.258/.333 with one home run in 31 plate appearances. He missed all of the 2019 season after suffering a devastating knee injury in Spring Training and hit only .220/.309/.369 in 72 games for the Diamondbacks in 2018. So the past three years haven’t been overly kind to him, which is why he was available on a minor league pact.
But Souza, who turns 32 in April, is familiar with Astros GM James Click. Souza spent three seasons with the Rays and had his best year in 2017, hitting .239/.351/.459 with 30 homers in 148 games. He’s going to strike out more than one might like, but he should draw a few walks and hit a few homers if healthy.
As of now, I’m assuming Myles Straw will be the primary center fielder in 2021. Click’s comments don’t seem to leave much room for a signing of Jackie Bradley Jr., and with Pedro Leon coming up the pike perhaps as soon as 2022, it makes sense for the Astros to see what they have in Straw. If he can hit reasonably well, his speed and defense will make him an asset.
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Chas McCormick was in line to be the fourth outfielder, but he has exactly zero major league experience. So if Souza looks healthy and is reasonably productive in Spring Training, he should make the team as the fourth outfielder. As a right-handed hitter with a career .758 OPS against left-handed pitchers, he can spell Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker on some of those days.
Souza does have limited experience in center field, but he’s not someone you’d want to deploy there on a regular basis. Most of his experience is in right field, so expect him to play there and also play some left field. Tucker might be better suited to play center if manager Dusty Baker wants to give Straw a day off.
On a no-risk deal, it’s worth a shot to see if Souza can rebound. The Astros don’t have much depth in the outfield, so don’t rule out another minor league signing or two. Some competition in Spring Training might help the team find a diamond in the rough to soak up some extra outfield at-bats.