With the focus on pitching and other position players such as Alex Gordon, the rumors connecting the Cubs to Ben Zobrist had basically disappeared in recent weeks. But one of Joe Maddon’s favorite players is still on the Cubs radar as multiple reports indicated Tuesday.
The Cubs tried to acquire Ben Zobrist last winter from the Rays and could not pull off a deal with Tampa before he was traded to Oakland. The Rays simply were not going to trade Zobrist to the Cubs after what transpired with Joe Maddon in late October. The front office attempted to make a deal with Oakland for Zobrist prior to him being shipped to Kansas City but the Cubs were not willing to give Billy Beane what Dayton Moore paid for him (Sean Manaea, Aaron Brooks).
Ben Zobrist helped the Royals win the World Series and in the process increased his stock. After missing time with the A’s and a rough first two months of the season, Zobrist ended up with a combined .276/.359/.450 slash line in 126 games with 36 doubles, three triples and 13 home runs for a .809 OPS. The 34-year old, switch hitting utility man has teams lining up to sign him this winter.
According to Jesse Rogers, Zobrist is on the Cubs off-season wish list and are one of multiple teams that have expressed interest in him.
ESPN Chicago reported that playing for Maddon again could work in the Cubs’ favor, the proximity to his home in Nashville and being in the National League should ease Zobrist’s concerns over playing time.
According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs have “checked in on” Zobrist but the “shape of their roster after exploring trade possibilities will have a lot to say about their level of involvement as the winter plays out, along with the strength of his market.”
Ben Zobrist is looking at a four- to five-year contract in the $15 million range per season by most estimates, which is a rather large commitment to a player that turns 35 in May. If the Cubs could land Zobrist on a shorter term deal (three years) he would make sense for a team that saw its window open this past season.
Without a doubt Ben Zobrist would help round out the Cubs’ roster. Whether or not the front office can make him fit within the budget and in the long-term plan will have to be determined in the next couple of months.