Chicago Cubs utility man Ben Zobrist was placed on the restricted list about five weeks ago, as he attended to a personal family matter. Soon after, he and his wife Julianna filed for divorce.
When and whether Zobrist would ultimately return to the Cubs has been an open, private question since then. The Cubs have maintained that veil of privacy as well as they can – and they should – with Theo Epstein’s recent comments on the matter only reiterating that the Cubs are letting Zobrist take the time he needs. Zobrist will be welcomed back when he’s ready to return, and the Cubs aren’t explicitly tying any kind of expectation about the length of his absence to the Craig Kimbrel signing (i.e., they aren’t going to say “we could only sign Kimbrel because we’re expecting Zobrist to be out much longer and forfeit many more dollars”).
Today, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was on 670 The Score, tracking Epstein’s comments, and re-confirming that the Cubs would happily welcome Zobrist back as soon as he’s ready to return, even as the team affords him the privacy and space he needs:
Ben Zobrist has been in contact with his #Cubs teammates as well as the front office, Jed Hoyer says.
"When he does come back, he'll get himself in great shape and be ready to play. That's kind of how we see it now," Hoyer says.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) June 13, 2019
In other words, whenever it is time for Zobrist to get himself ready to return to the Cubs – if and when it happens this season, the final year of his deal – he would necessarily have to build back up to that point, presumably with a minor league stint of some kind.
Hopefully it comes to that. So far, the Cubs have managed their roster well in Zobrist’s absence, but you never know what might happen – where the holes or injuries might emerge, or where a veteran’s switch-hitting presence might be needed. Of paramount importance is Zobrist’s family, and things proceeding as well as possible for them. Although he could not and would not comment on that side of things, listening live, I just kinda got the sense that there was some optimism that Zobrist might return this year.
Fingers crossed for a positive outcome on all fronts.