When the Washington Nationals acquired Trea Turner, the key piece they parted with was Steven Souza. Had he not had the season he did at Triple-A that year, the trade may have never happened.
Watching the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Houston Astros in the ALCS got me thinking about the three-team trade the Washington Nationals pulled off with the Rays and San Diego Padres, which netted them Trea Turner.
Ott was a 25th round draft pick who was pitching in Single-A at the time, leaving Souza as the centerpiece of who the Rays wanted in return (they did acquire Jake Bauers from San Diego). Souza spent seven years in the minor leagues and even though he was a former 3rd round draft pick, at age 25, was no longer a prospect.
Up to the point of the trade Souza had only three short stays in the major leagues, all coming in 2014. His experience consisted of 23 at-bats in 21 games, and a .130 batting average.
I’m guessing the Rays saw his diving catch on the last day of the ’14 season to preserve Jordan Zimmermann’s no hitter, though this is not why they wanted Souza.
They probably also saw the numbers he put up in Triple-A that season. In 96 games for Syracuse, Souza hit .350 with an OPS of 1.022. He hit 18 home runs and stole 26 bases, flashing the ultimate combination of power and speed.
Souza set career highs in hits and doubles, and even though he struck out a lot, he walked a fair share to balance it out.
The year prior Souza hit .300 with more strikeouts in less at-bats, at Double-A Harrisburg. Before that, he was in Single-A, where he spent five years bouncing between Low A and High A.
At the time, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and Michael A. Taylor staked claim to the outfield positions heading into 2015. Souza had potential, though was destined to be a backup outfielder at best. The Nationals found a taker in the Rays, and were able to spin both Turner and Ross from the Padres.
Had Steven Souza not had the year he had at Triple-A, maybe the Nationals don’t have a piece the Rays want, and they are left out of the three team trade. The Padres swap with the Rays straight up, and Turner stays put in San Diego.
We’ll never know, as this is the way the chips fell. And the defending World Champion Washington Nationals are happy for that.