In Ben Zobrist, Dayton Moore just acquired five of the best players at once
Last year, as the Royals were making their push to the postseason, there were all sorts of rumors about the players Dayton Moore might acquire -- Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime, Optimus Prime, also in his prime, etc. In the end, the Royals picked up Erik Kratz, a useful backup catcher (who received zero playing time in the postseason) and some power for the bench in Josh Willingham. Fine pieces both, but not the kind of thing that makes AL competition begin quaking or causes NL teams to say things like, "You know, let's just cancel the World Series this year. Hear there's a lot of good HBO shows on in October."
Not so this year. Just two days after acquiring the Reds ace, Johnny Cueto, Moore was at it again, picking up Ben Zobrist from the Athletics in exchange for right-hander Aaron Brooks and southpaw Sean Manaea.
"But," I can hear you asking, "Zobrist is just a utility player. Why is he so valuable?" Well, I'm glad you asked. Because he is ridicicously valuable and is essentially five players all wrapped up into one.
These are just some of his skills:
But Ben Zobrist is no mere second baseman. Or left fielder. Or right fielder. Or shorstop. He's all of those positions rolled up into one delectable package. To go back to a previous analogy, he's like Optimus Prime, both a car and a robot and Orson Welles all at once.
In his career, Zobrist has played every position but catcher and pitcher, and he plays them well. At second base, he has a 30.6 UZR, 35.8 in RF and 2.4 in LF. Even the positions that he struggles at, like shortstop (-2.3), he's still plenty useful. That mark puts him ahead of freshly-acquired Rockie Jose Reyes, who has a -4.9 mark at the position.
Put all together, and Zobrist is baseball's Hydra. With him on your team, if a player goes down with an injury, a Zobrist appears to fill the position. In action, it works kind of like this:
A patient batting eye
Of course, his utility isn't limited to his bag full of gloves either. Since becoming a full-time player in 2009, Zobrist is fourth in rWAR in baseball, behind only Miguel Cabrera (MVP and triple crown winner), Robinson Cano (recipient of a $240 million contract) and Adrian Beltre (future Hall of Fame candidate, man who doesn't like his head touched).
That's in part thanks to Zobrist's 10th-best walk-rate in the Majors in that time, ranking right behind David Ortiz despite only one season with 20+ home runs. That means we also get to see this:
He is, however, one of only 26 second basemen with 100-plus home runs and 100-plus steals in his career. Plus, with his wRC+ of 125, Zobrist will be an instant boom to the offense, ranking between Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas on the team. Not bad for a "super-utility" guy.
Oh, that's right. Zobrist doesn't just play a bunch of positions and play them well, he also bats from both sides of the plate, rendering him platoon free.
Career OPS vs. RHP: .771
Career OPS vs. LHP: .813
It also means that Zobrist is Schrodinger's cat on the baseball field: He is both a right-handed second baseman and left-handed right fielder. You just don't know until the lineup card is written.
Zobrist is so versataile that he's even taken up acting. He's appeared in both the short film, "Snake" and the feature "Ring the Bell," that also featured Rick Sutcliffe and John Kruk.
If the Royals win the World Series this year and a movie is about the team, Ben Zobrist can star in it. He can also help write it, too, having penned a book, "Double Play," with his wife Julianna.
A cool nickname
But Zobrist also offers the Royals something else that they've sorely been lacking this year: A good nickname. Ever since Billy "Country Breakfast" Butler left, there's been a huge hole in the team. Enter the Zorilla. Through exhaustive research, I've discovered it's impossible for a team to win a World Series without a great nickname on the team. (Note: I did no research. But if the Royals win the championship, we can all look to this as the new rule that determines who will win the Fall Classic.)