Both Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo and Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked last weekend about Steven Souza competing for a role on the Nationals' bench in 2015.
"He's ready," Williams said of Souza, the hard-hitting outfielder who dominated Triple-A pitching in 2014, was named the International League MVP and made his MLB debut last season.
"He's a big leaguer. He's proven everything he can prove."
Rizzo was asked where Souza and outfield prospect Michael Taylor fit into the Nationals' plans.
"They fit as two of the best prospects in all of baseball," Rizzo said. "So they're very talented players and guys that are going to come to Spring Training and try and earn a job."
On Wednesday, Rizzo traded Souza, 25, and 19-year-old left-hander Travis Ott to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a blockbuster three-team deal the netted San Diego Padres' prospects Trea Turner and Joe Ross.
Turner, 21, was ranked no.5 overall in the Padres' organization by MLB.com after San Diego drafted him 13th overall in this past June's draft.
Ross, also 21, is a right-hander drafted 25th overall by the Padres in 2011, who was ranked 8th overall in their organization by MLB.
In Turner's first 69 games and 321 plate appearances as a professional, the product of North Carolina State put up a .323/.406/.448 line between Low and High-A in the Padres' system in 2014.
Ross, in his fourth minor league season, pitched at High-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio last season, putting up a 3.92 ERA with 29 walks (2.15 BB/9) and 106 Ks (7.84 K/9) in 23 games, 22 starts and 121 ⅔ IP.
Souza hit two home runs over 26 plate appearances with the Nats in the majors after making his MLB debut this past season, and put up a .345/.427/.577 line in 419 PAs at Triple-A in his eighth minor league campaign after the Nats took him in the 3rd Round of the 2007 Draft.
In 96 games with the Syracuse Chiefs, Souza hit 25 doubles and 18 homers.
Ott, a 2013 25th Round pick out of Shippensburg, PA, made 13 starts between the New York/Penn League's Auburn Doubledays and the Low-A Hagerstown Suns in 2014, putting up a 3.93 ERA in 55 IP, over which he walked 26 (4.25 BB/9) and struck out 45 (7.36 K/9).
The players who moved between the Nationals and Rays are just four of the eleven who were included in the three-team deal.
The Nationals got Turner and Ross.
Tampa Bay picked up Souza and Ott from the Nats and catcher Rene Rivera, right-handed prospect Burch Smith and first base prospect Jake Bauers from the Padres and sent outfielder Wil Myers, catcher Ryan Hanigan and prospects Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo to San Diego.
MLB.com's Corey Brock, the Padres beat writer, wrote on Twitter that Turner projects as an everyday shortstop:
From an NL scout on now former #Padres prospect Trea Turner: "Turner for me was one of the easiest everyday SS grades I've ever written."— Corey Brock (@FollowThePadres) December 18, 2014
ESPN.com's Keith Law thinks the Nationals "made out well" in the deal, acquiring Turner, who projects as a "a solid-average to slightly above-average" major league regular or "at worst" an everyday center fielder in the future.
Ross, he writes, "found more success in 2014" than ever before after making some mechanical adjustments.
A "handful of executives" who spoke to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal told him the Nats were "faring the best," in the deal, while one unnamed executive was less blunt in his assessment of the Nationals' return, telling the bow-tied reporter, "'I think the Nats must have pics on TB and SD!! They are the clear winner. Not even close.'"
Souza, for his part, talked last weekend about being ready to take the next step after his breakout season with the Triple-A Chiefs and Nationals.
"I feel like I have a really good foundation at this point," he said, "and now it's just about getting the opportunities and being confident with it. Just trusting what I've done and staying with it."
He'll likely get the opportunity to play every day in the majors with Tampa Bay this season, an opportunity that didn't exist in D.C. barring any injuries.