If you poke around, you’ll find plenty connecting the Chicago Cubs to free agent Ben Zobrist.
I could go on. I have no reason to doubt these things, and yet I still struggle with how to appropriately frame and discuss Ben Zobrist rumors.
That’s because, given his unique skill set – there aren’t many players who can bring an above-average bat to almost any position on the field, and can man those positions very well on any given day – Zobrist would improve literally every single team in baseball in one role or another. Even after you discount the teams that won’t plausibly spend $40+ million for a 35+-year-old free agent, you’re still left with upwards of 20 teams that could have interest and could realistically sign him.
So, then, when you see reports about Team X having interest in Zobrist (be it the Cubs or the Royals or the Nationals or the Mets or the Cardinals or some other team), there’s really not much you can do with that in a way that actually adds to the rumor mill discourse. I don’t want to mislead folks about the seriousness of the connection (at this stage), and I also don’t want to appear to be grabbing any low-hanging rumor fruit. But, at the same time, I do want to keep folks apprised of what’s going on in the Cubs’ world. Zobrist is just a tricky one.
Indeed, at this stage, the best I can offer is the following:
1.) There are legitimate, credible rumors connecting the Cubs and Zobrist;
2.) The Cubs have had reported interest in Zobrist before (i.e., in trade last offseason); and
3.) The Cubs have a previous connection to Zobrist via manager Joe Maddon.
It’s fair to conclude that the Cubs are probably among the more realistic teams for Zobrist, but even that group is still probably substantial. And, furthermore, without unlimited resources this offseason, and without an obvious hole in the starting lineup outside of center field (which is to say there’s no expectation that Zobrist would be signed to become the starting center fielder), it’s hard to see Zobrist as a particular focal point for the Cubs. Then again, sometimes this front office simply targets a guy they like, and then sorts out the details later. Maybe they’ll want to try and get Zobrist in-house quickly, which will open up even more trade options throughout the rest of the offseason.
So, we’ll keep monitoring his market and rumors about the Cubs, specifically. Projections have Zobrist netting contracts in the $40 to $50 million range over three or four years. It’s a sizable investment, but, as I said, Zobrist is uniquely valuable. Assuming the Cubs believe he figures to age well, then why not give him a serious look?
Many other teams will.