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D-backs non-tender T. Walker, Souza, Joseph

Arizona extends offers to 7 players ahead of deadline
@SteveGilbertMLB
December 2, 2019

PHOENIX -- The D-backs elected not to tender contracts to three arbitration-eligible players prior to Monday’s deadline, cutting ties with outfielder Steven Souza Jr., pitcher Taijuan Walker and catcher Caleb Joseph. Arbitration-eligible players Nick Ahmed, David Peralta, Jake Lamb, Andrew Chafin, Robbie Ray, Archie Bradley and Matt Andriese were tendered

PHOENIX -- The D-backs elected not to tender contracts to three arbitration-eligible players prior to Monday’s deadline, cutting ties with outfielder Steven Souza Jr., pitcher Taijuan Walker and catcher Caleb Joseph.

Arbitration-eligible players Nick Ahmed, David Peralta, Jake Lamb, Andrew Chafin, Robbie Ray, Archie Bradley and Matt Andriese were tendered contracts.

These players just joined free-agent pool

For Walker and Souza, it came down to the fact that the pair missed all or large parts of each of the past two seasons.

“With Taijuan and Steven, I think really the main thrust was the missed time of the past couple of years kind of caught up to us,” D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said.

Walker made just three starts in 2018 before requiring Tommy John surgery, and a right shoulder capsule sprain he sustained during his rehab set him back and allowed him to throw just one inning in '19, which came in the final game of the season.

Acquired from the Mariners along with Ketel Marte in a trade that sent Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger to Seattle, Walker was one of Arizona’s best starters in 2017, when he went 9-9 with a 3.49 ERA.

With rotation depth, and Walker set to make around what he made last year -- $5 million -- the D-backs decided to let him go.

Ray, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake, Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen, Alex Young, Taylor Clarke, Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener are among the D-backs' rotation candidates heading into next spring.

“That decision was more tactical in the sense of where our depth was,” Hazen said. “And what happens if he is not in the rotation come the end of Spring Training, beaten out by other guys? And where does that put us with other relievers and is [the bullpen] the role we would want him in?”

As for Souza, he too came to Arizona in a trade by Hazen, this one with the Rays prior to the 2018 season. A shoulder injury he suffered in Spring Training kept him off the field for a large part of that season and limited his effectiveness when he returned.

Then last year he sustained a gruesome left knee injury while slipping on home plate in the next-to-last exhibition game and missed the entire season.

“The majority of his injuries he sustained, the guy’s going full tilt, 100 percent of the time,” Hazen said. “I wouldn’t want a player who wasn’t doing that. It just is what it is. It’s unlucky. There’s certainly no fault in preparation or work ethic, things like that. Those are the controllables. That’s what we ask the controllables to be, and those are there with him 100 percent of the time.”

The signing of veteran free agent Stephen Vogt to pair with Carson Kelly last week likely sealed Joseph’s fate.

By non-tendering Walker, Souza and Joseph, the D-backs likely saved a little more than $10 million.

The only slight surprise in the arbitration-eligible players who were tendered contracts was infielder Lamb, who will get a raise from the $4.825 million he made last year.

Lamb has been limited to 134 games total over the past two seasons due to injuries, and he hit .193/.323/.353 last year.

When he was healthy in 2016 and '17, Lamb was a force at the plate, and the team saw signs down the stretch last year that he was beginning to regain that form. A left-handed hitter, he can spell Christian Walker at first and Eduardo Escobar at third.

“We saw some good things in September,” Hazen said. “We saw him hitting the ball as hard as he has in a long time, lifting the ball a little bit more. He’s back 100 percent healthy. I can’t speak to the exact role or what it will be. I think there’s going to be the opportunity to play multiple positions again. That’s really how we see that one.”

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.