Assistant GM: D-backs acquired well-rounded players in Widener, Souza Jr.
Steven Souza Jr. will contribute right away. Taylor Widener has the skills to be a factor later on. Regardless, both bring the Arizona Diamondbacks value.
Arizona acquired Souza Jr. and Widener in a three-team trade on Tuesday that sent second baseman Brandon Drury to New York. While Drury was a starter in 2017, Arizona now fills a hole in the outfield and adds a polished, young arm to its farm system.
The move came less than a day after former Diamondbacks outfielder J.D. Martinez agreed to a five-year, $110 million deal with Boston.
“It did seem like the last couple days that the J.D. situation, once [Eric] Hosmer signed [with San Diego], was going to come to a head somewhere. Then at the same time, simultaneously, our talks with Tampa and New York started to formalize a little bit more,” assistant general manager Jared Porter told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “We feel really excited about Steven Souza Jr. and Taylor Widener.”
Souza Jr., 28, comes over from the Tampa Bay Rays and is the likely replacement of Martinez in right field. Similar to Martinez, Souza Jr. had a breakout season in 2017, posting career-highs in hits (125), home runs (30), runs batted in (78) and walks (84).
Defensively, he committed six errors and had a fielding percentage of .980 in 136 starts.
“Souza is a very well-rounded player, which is something we’ve preached and we want to get as much of as we can here,” Porter told Doug & Wolf. “He hit 30 home runs last year playing in a pretty tough ballpark in Tampa. We feel like his offensive game is continuing to emerge.”
The one facet of Souza’s game that has hindered him early in his career is strikeouts. He recorded 179 last season to go with a strikeout rate of 29 percent. Despite the high numbers, Porter doesn’t appear to be concerned.
“When you look at a player you have to look at the whole picture. If a guy is striking out at a very high rate but isn’t producing, it’s a problem. In Souza’s case, his strikeout rate did start come to down last year. It’s still high, we feel like it could still come down more,” Porter told Doug & Wolf. “If there’s enough damage being done around the strikeouts we feel very comfortable with it and Souza fits that.”
While Souza Jr. could potentially start on Opening Day, it is expected that Widener will begin the regular season in the minor leagues, although he will be in major league camp this spring. Drafted in 2016, the 23-year-old has a strong repertoire of pitches and has began to climb toward the majors.
“He [Widener] has really just trended up and up,” Porter told Doug & Wolf. “He’s got a lower, deceptive arm slot. His fastball has a lot of finish on it, he’s got a very good swing-and-miss changeup and a breaking ball that induces a lot of weak contact.”
“He certainly has a chance to start … Once you get to Double-A and pitch well you never know when you’re going to get the call.”