The Cubs made Ben Zobrist a priority of the off-season when he became a free agent. And on Tuesday, the front office was able to announce the Cubs finally landed a player they coveted and tried to trade for twice in the last year.
Ben Zobrist was introduced Wednesday at Baseball’s Winter Meetings and officially reunited with his long-time manager, Joe Maddon.
Ben Zobrist won the press conference when he said, “I want to win a championship as a Chicago Cub. That’s my one goal the next four years. We’ve got to win a championship and bring a World Series trophy back to Chicago.”
It was Monday when Zobrist found out the Cubs would be able to trade Starlin Castro and free up a spot at second base. Zobrist and his family made a quick decision to sign with the Cubs. Zobrist left money on the table from the Giants and Nationals to play for the Cubs and to be closer to his home outside of Nashville for the next four years.
“I think in the end, this was the one that really motivated me the most as well,” Zobrist said. “Knowing the opportunity to win a championship here in Chicago, right now, that’s the main motivation for me.”
The Cubs see him as their everyday second baseman. Zobrist will still move around but having one primary position was important for him. Zobrist will hit toward the top of Maddon’s lineup and does not have a problem hitting leadoff, although he admitted that could “take some getting used to.” Zobrist feels like he was born to play in the National League.
Zobrist, like Maddon, grew up a Cardinals fan and his family is split on his decision to sign with the Cubs. “Some of them are really happy and some of them are really mad,” Zobrist said. “My dad, when he found out, he was so excited he was jumping up and down and saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m so excited to be a Cub fan.’”
Ben Zobrist will wear his familiar No. 18 for the Chicago Cubs.
“I’m not going to be satisfied with making the playoffs here. I’m not going to be satisfied with winning the NLCS here. It’s the championship. That’s what it’s all about.”
The players are excited about the team signing Zobrist and the moves the front office has already made this off-season.
Jed Hoyer told Carrie Muskat, “We got a lot of different texts from guys on the team who were excited about bringing Zobrist in. They pay attention and watched the World Series and know what kind of player he is. They were sad about the departure of Starlin, but excited about the addition of Ben. These guys are so into what we do. I’ve never gotten so many texts from players about what we’re trying to do and what they want us to do. I think they want to win and they’re excited about it. That was not happening in 2012. It’s a good feeling that in a great way, these guys want us to bring guys in who can help them win.”
Joe Maddon was obviously a huge factor in Ben Zobrist deciding to sign with the Cubs. Zobrist visited with the other teams involved in the process. When it came to the Cubs, Zobrist just talked to Maddon.
Maddon defined what Zobrist’s role would be with the Cubs during a phone conversation three weeks ago. Zobrist trusts Maddon, and he should. No one has played more games for Maddon than Ben Zobrist.
The Cubs know Zobrist will have an impact on the field and in the clubhouse.
“When he shows up in our clubhouse, you can already recognize and feel the kind of impact he’s going to have on our guys,” Maddon said. “Zo is only about one thing. He’s the consummate team player, professional. The kind of impact he could have on our young position players to me is going to be phenomenal. The example to be set is going to be perfect I think for our young players.”
“Not only his work ethic, but how to play the game, play the game properly, show up every day, be ready to play. That’s who he is, man. I’m really excited. He’s going to make a big impact on our team this year and for the next several years.”
Jed Hoyer spent time Wednesday talking about signing Ben Zobrist and how the Cubs plan on utilizing him.
“We talked to Ben all winter. He knew full well that we loved him as a player, as a person. Joe [Maddon] and Davey [Dave Martinez] raved about him. He was a great fit for us. We just had to make a spot for him. He knew it might not happen, but he was sort of willing to hang in there with us. We always stayed in communication. In this case we did a pretty good job of keeping that quiet. We’re thrilled with how it came together.”
“Ben’s a switch-hitter that makes contact. He really grinds his at bats. I think that anyone that heard that press conference knows this guy is just a quality human being. We’re thrilled about it. Like I said, he’s been on the radar for a long time and I’m glad it came together for us.”
Hoyer explained that it became clear during the process with Zobrist that it was important to him to have one position on the field. Zobrist would like to spend a majority of his time at second base. The Cubs have an everyday position for him but he will continue to move around the field. Hoyer envisions Zobrist playing some left field and some right and filling basically the same role he did with Joe Maddon in Tampa.
Ben Zobrist will be the Cubs everyday second baseman and hit at the top of the lineup.
“We are excited about the set of skills he brings,” Hoyer said, “And the person and the dependability is wonderful.”