According to a report from the Sun-Times, the Cubs have targeted INF/OF Ben Zobrist and would like to acquire him from the Oakland A’s sooner rather than later. Gordon Wittenmyer indicated Zobrist is “one of their biggest targets heading into June.”
Ben Zobrist is a favorite of Joe Maddon. The Cubs tried to pry him from the Rays during the off-season before he was dealt to Oakland.
The Cubs would like to add players to the roster to bolster a bench that has kept Maddon from resting his everyday players. According to Wittenmyer, the bench “has been one of the biggest ongoing concerns for a team that has played more one-run games than anyone else in baseball.”
The front office has reached out to Billy Beane about Ben Zobrist. Oakland has not decided to become sellers yet and Beane has not made Zobrist available.
The Sun-Times pointed out that injuries to OF Chris Denorfia and INF Tommy La Stella, coupled with the struggles of INF/OF Arismendy Alcantara have left the Cubs bench in shambles without options available that Joe Maddon thought he would have when the season started.
With Junior Lake in the starting lineup for Friday afternoon’s game, the Cubs bench consisted of INF Jonathan Herrera, OF/1B Mike Baxter, OF Chris Coghlan and C David Ross. Keeping 13 pitchers on the active roster for a majority of the season, along with a third catcher until last week, has limited Maddon’s options.
The Cubs are near the bottom of the National League in pinch-hitting as a team (14th out of 15 teams) with a .150/.261/.225 slash line that includes only three extra basehits (two doubles and one home run). As the Sun-Times mentioned, Chris Denorfia has four of the team’s 12 pinch hits this season.
Ben Zobrist is a free agent at the end of the year and is owed the remainder of his $7.5 million salary for this season. The Cubs have room in the budget to add his contract as well as the prospect currency it would take to add Zobrist to the roster.
In the three games back from the disabled list, Ben Zobrist is 4-for-11 with two doubles. Zobrist is hitting .262/.324/.426 in 17 games for Oakland this season with seven doubles and a home run for a .750 OPS.
Zobrist turned 34 earlier in the week (May 26) and thrived under Joe Maddon for the first nine years of his career. The switch hitting Zobrist is hitting .350/.409/.450 (7-for-20) against left handers this year and .220/.283/.415 versus right handers this season. For his career, Zobrist is a .254/.349/.421 hitter from the left side with a .770 OPS and a .286/.364/.447 right-handed hitter with a .811 OPS.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are looking for ways to upgrade the roster. According to the Sun-Times, how the Cubs play over the next two weeks “could determine how quickly they can … or are willing to … make their next move.”
Ben Zobrist figures to garner a lot of attention once Billy Beane makes him available. Zobrist would fit on several teams. It will be interesting to see how much a team was willing to pay to acquire him.