Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

ben zobrist raysThe Chicago Cubs’ connection to former Tampa Bay super utility man (the super-est) Ben Zobrist is not new, with the Cubs’ new manager Zobrist’s former long-time manager, with the Cubs having attempted to trade for him in the offseason, and with the Cubs connected to him by some informed speculation last weekend.

But Gordon Wittenmyer reports a very specific connection, writing that Zobrist is “one of their biggest targets” as we head toward midseason, and indicating that the Cubs have already been in contact with the A’s, who are expected to be sellers come July. You can read Wittenmyer’s full report at the Sun-Times for more, including thoughts from Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

Zobrist, who just turned 34 and returned from an early-season knee injury (a couple modest red flags there), is hitting .246/.306/.400 through 72 plate appearances for the A’s this year. For his career, Zobrist is a .264/.353/.428 hitter, and has the ability to play any defensive position with decent ability. He makes just $7.5 million this season before heading into free agency, and, it’s a fair bet that he’d cost a quality young player even as a rental.

We were already following the A’s as a possible trade partner for the Cubs – they also have pitchers like Scott Kazmir and Tyler Clippard, who, if healthy, could make sense to teams like the Cubs – but this adds just a bit more smoke. Obviously as we get a little closer to trade season, we can discuss the specific fits a little more closely.

As a separate matter, Wittenmyer also connects the Cubs to free agent reliever Rafael Soriano, someone we’ve discussed around these parts before, and Diamondbacks lefty Oliver Perez. Now 33, Perez sports an ugly 6.17 ERA in the early going this year, but the sample is small and there are some peripheral indications that he could bounce back soon.

As for Soriano, there’s an interesting wrinkle to discuss: he just changed agents, dropping Scott Boras in favor of Chicago-based Alan Nero. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because you were reading it all the time last Fall – Nero represents Cubs manager Joe Maddon (among many others). Soriano’s statement on the change reads like someone who feels like he was being marketed too aggressively and inappropriately:

It’ll be interesting to see where Soriano winds up, and what he’s got left in the tank. Soriano has been connected to the Cubs already this month.

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