Multiple reports have indicated the Cubs have shown interest in signing Ben Zobrist and that he would like to play for Joe Maddon in Chicago. Zobrist is a veteran bat that could help the lineup and Maddon knows firsthand how to maximize Zobrist’s versatility in the field.
There is not a team with aspirations of competing for a pennant that would not benefit from adding Ben Zobrist to its roster. And chances are it would be easier to list the teams that have not been connected to Zobrist this off-season than those that have.
After a slow start and dealing with injuries in Oakland, Zobrist picked it up with the Royals and actually increased his value in the playoffs despite a slow September and early October.
In 59 games with the Royals, Zobrist his .284/.364/.453 with 16 doubles, a triple and seven home runs for a .816 OPS. Zobrist walked (29) almost as many times as he struck out (30) in 264 plate appearances with Kansas City. Combined between the A’s and Royals, Zobrist had a .276/.359/.450 line during the 2015 regular season with 36 doubles, three triples and 13 home runs for a .809 OPS.
Even with turning 35 in May, Zobrist will sign a multi-year contract with some estimates pointing toward an unrealistic five-year deal. Jim Bowden recently predicted Zobrist will ink a three-year, $48 million contract with the disclaimer that he would not be surprised if a team overpaid Zobrist “due to his many positive qualities” both on and off the field.
Patrick Mooney reported Tuesday that Zobrist “might be a luxury item the Cubs can’t afford while facing all these questions about their financial flexibility.” The Cubs are focused on adding as much pitching as possible and are considered the favorites to sign David Price. There is concern in the front office, according to Mooney, in “tying up too much money in two 30-something pitchers.”
Mooney pointed out “it would probably take a big trade this winter for Maddon’s super-utility guy to really fit on this roster next season.”
The Cubs have a need in center field, the only position without a clear-cut everyday answer already on the roster. There is a lot of positional depth and versatility and more players pushing their way to the majors. The front office would like to improve the outfield defense and are exploring options in both free agents and trades.
Many of the experts thought Ben Zobrist would sign with a team well before the Winter Meetings (Dec. 7-10). If the Cubs land Zobrist it could tip their hand on how the front office plans to address the pitching needs this winter.