At least, the Ben Zobrist update we’ve been waiting for: he is going to try to come back.
It starts with a pseudo-rehab assignment in the minor leagues:
Theo said MLB allows a 30-day window for non-suspended players on restricted list to play in Minor League “rehab” games. Zobrist will need to be reinstated by end of 8/31 to be eligible for postseason.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 26, 2019
Theo says Zobrist has been working including baseball activities. If all goes well, sept return makes sense.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 26, 2019
Zobrist can remain on restricted list (and off 40-man) for up to 30 days while working to get back in game shape in the minors. Needs to be off restricted list by end of day Aug 31 to be playoff eligible. Sept 1 seems like a realistic target date for his return if all goes well
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 26, 2019
Theo: We have complete trust in Zo the person and as a professional. Only needs to be off restricted list by Aug. 31 to be playoff eligible.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) July 26, 2019
Nothing is guaranteed at this point, but if Zobrist can get back up to speed and be Zobrist, it would be an incredible shot to the bench in September. Indeed, with rosters expanding to the 40-man, the Cubs could suddenly feel like they’re absolutely loaded, after a year of feeling really rough on the bench. Moreover, then the Cubs will have a month of Zobrist to determine if he’s the right fit for the 25-man postseason roster (if the Cubs get there).
But again, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Zobrist is 38, and has been away from playing for several months. It’s possible he’ll try to ramp back up, and it just won’t happen for him. We’ll see what we see when he starts playing in games.
I doubt this impacts the Cubs’ trade deadline plans too much with respect to still wanting to supplement the bench, though I do wonder if there is going to be a financial calculus – Zobrist is currently not paid, but if he’s back for September, that’ll be a couple million more that the Cubs have to account for. To be sure, they should *NOT* change course because they’re worried about that hit, nor should they discourage Zobrist from returning (clearly, they aren’t). But the budget is the budget, and the front office has to operate within it. At least the Cubs could use the Zobrist news to push back against any leverage-grabbing by trade partners (“Well, you know, we’re gonna get Zobrist back, so I’m not sure we can pay thaaaaat much …. “)
We’ll have to unpack this some more in the coming days.