Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

Squaring with what I mentioned earlier here and on Twitter, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Chicago Cubs are indeed still in on super-utility man Ben Zobrist, who is believed by many to be commanding four-year offers at this stage in the game, and is probably looking for upwards of $60 million.

If you’re wondering how that’s a fit for the Cubs, who still need to make a move in the outfield, and if you’re wondering about previous reports that indicated Zobrist was looking for a gig where he could play regularly at second base, well, Rosenthal’s got some thoughts on that, too:

Moving Castro would clear salary for the Cubs to go after Zobrist (as well as opening up second base for him), as well as possibly stay involved with certain pricey outfielders.

There was a rumor some time ago involving the Cubs, Yankees, Castro, and outfielder Brett Gardner, though the Yankees shot that down publicly. Recently – including just moments ago – Joel Sherman has noted the Cubs’ continued interest in Gardner. When we talked about that trade previously, I was not loving the fit for the Cubs.

My mind, of course, is racing around some kind of complicated series of moves where the Cubs sign Zobrist, trade Castro to the Yankees for Gardner (and more, hopefully), trade Jorge Soler for a pitcher, and sign Jason Heyward, roughly leaving them with a Transformers-style super team.

But I should step back for a bit, and you should, too.

Here’s where we are: the Cubs are pursuing Zobrist, who could make a decision soon. Signing Zobrist could make sense no matter what, as he’s an incredibly versatile player with an above-average bat, and lots of familiarity with Cubs manager Joe Maddon. If the Cubs really like Zobrist – and we believe they do – they might just want to get him in-house, and then figure out how best to use him and construct the rest of the roster later.

That said, signing Zobrist in tandem with some other moves tends to make a lot more sense. Moving Castro (and his contract) seems like the most logical next step, and now there’s a pretty firm rumor in that regard.

Now we see where this goes.

UPDATE: Joel Sherman has been the one mentioning Gardner previously, so this is quite notable:

Frankly, that makes plenty of sense, too. By moving Castro without taking on another contract in Gardner, the Cubs probably have more flexibility going forward to do what they actually want to do in the outfield, even if they sign Zobrist. With Gardner in the fold, it was much more likely that he was going to be the outfield move. Which, well, I’m not crazy about (at least without knowing more about what deal would have brought him to the Cubs).

Since that no longer seems like the case, I won’t spend too much more time pontificating on Gardner. Perhaps the Cubs will just pick up some prospects for Castro. Or a reliever? Or maybe no trade at all, of course.

UPDATE 2: Just a stray thought while we await more – by signing Zobrist first, much like they signed John Lackey first, the Cubs would be in a great position to be able to sit back and be covered if they can’t get another great bat with their outfield maneuvering (and then, for example, could go for a defense-first player in center field if they weren’t able to land Jason Heyward). Further, by moving Castro and his contract, the flexibility only increases. I’m still on the fence about moving Castro in general – I think he can be very good next year and beyond at second base – but I see the thinking here.

UPDATE 3: A pitcher for Castro, perhaps? Sherman isn’t quite saying that, however:

Warren is an interesting guy, having broken out the last couple years despite all projections to the contrary, and with the ability to pitch in a swing role. At 28, Warren is arbitration eligible for the first time in 2016, and he’s projected to make about $1.5 million. If that was a straight up swap involving no cash, I wouldn’t absolutely hate it (though I’d need a little more time to evaluate to feel more strongly one way or the other).

UPDATE 4: I kind of hate having these two rumors going in the same post, but they are semi-related, so until and unless something hard breaks in one or the other, I’ll just keep them together. So this goes here:

If the offers are comparable, then it might come down to Zobrist’s comfort with Maddon and interest in Chicago (or New York) versus the clear starting gig at second base with the Mets. Obviously that could change with the Cubs at a moment’s notice, hence, again, keeping these rumors together.

UPDATE 5: Hello:

Epstein would not say the Cubs were close on something if there wasn’t very much an expectation that things were going down. So you’re going to want to stay tuned.

UPDATE 6: Confirming the math of our hopes up above on Heyward:

I think it still would require some creativity by the Cubs, but I also sense that Rogers is correct here on the Cubs’ financial ability this offseason. That’s good news.

UPDATE 7: Random note on Zobrist, since I see some discontent about him as a target. Remember, it’s not ALL about the defensive versatility – this is a guy who’s posted the 19th best wRC+ in the AL since 2011 … ahead of Longoria, Pujols, A-Rod, Brantley, and I could go on.

UPDATE 8: Zobrist to the Cubs.

UPDATE 9: Castro to the Yankees.

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