6 logical destinations for coveted Zobrist
This is definitely a Ben Zobrist market. Sign him, because if you don't, someone else will.
The Zobrist free-agent sweepstakes were not necessarily a predictable development, but they are certainly with us now.
A few months ago, Zobrist may not have been considered among the elite of the 2015-16 free-agent class. But that is the company that he now keeps.
This is the payoff for years of versatile, reliable, durable performance, topped off with an outstanding postseason run for the 2015 World Series-champion Kansas City Royals. There is nothing like starring on baseball's biggest and brightest stage to add some luster, not to mention net worth, to a free agent's status.
In this case, even though Zobrist is 34, it might get him the four-year contract he is reportedly seeking. One way or another, he will not be short of interested potential employers.
Zobrist has played all over the diamond in a Major League career that dates back to 2006 with Tampa Bay. He was with the Rays through 2014, was traded to Oakland and then went to Kansas City in a Trade Deadline deal last season.
At this point, Zobrist is primarily a second baseman and a corner outfielder, but he can also play third. That kind of versatility has obvious value, but what put a perspective on Zobrist's value was his performance in the 2015 postseason.
After a regular season in which he had a slash line of .276/.359./.450, Zobrist encored with .303/.365/.515 in the postseason. He was an extra-base hit waiting to happen. Zobrist's eight doubles in 16 games tied a record for a single postseason, previously set by Albert Pujols and David Freese, both with the Cardinals in 2011. And Zobrist added two home runs. He was an integral part of the Royals' postseason success, batting second in Kansas City's lineup.
Interest in Zobrist has been, to put it mildly, widespread. There have been reports linking him to roughly half of the Major League franchises. Let's try to cut that down to a workable number with some of the most logical destinations.
Zobrist liked them. They liked him. He gave his newborn daughter the middle name "Royal." It's the ultimate as a logical landing spot for Zobrist. He would presumably be less expensive than another free agent and key performer in Kansas City's championship run, left fielder Alex Gordon.
They have a number of infielders who can play more than one position, but on an underachieving club, Zobrist, a solid citizen of the first order, could be seen as a very positive addition, a stabilizing presence. Jordan Zimmermann is off the books, so there should be plenty of funds in the Nats' budget.
Here's their second baseman if Daniel Murphy departs in free agency, which seems to be a likely development. FOX Sports reported that Zobrist was the Mets' "No. 1 target." The fourth year is believed to be a stumbling block, but the competition could serve to increase the duration as well as the price.
They have a young and extremely promising second baseman in Joe Panik. But there are reports that San Francisco could make Panik available in a trade for a front-line starting pitcher. In that case, Zobrist would make perfect sense.
Zobrist enjoyed some highly productive seasons with Tampa Bay, where he was managed by Joe Maddon. So this would be a reunion. The Cubs have Starlin Castro at second, but it has been reported that he could be part of a trade for pitching. Chicago might welcome Zobrist, in particular, because he is a high-on-base-percentage hitter, who, unlike many of the Cubs, does not strike out with great frequency.
They don't fit the typical profile of a team that would seek a 34-year-old looking for a multiyear deal. But there is a school of thought that Zobrist would be an ideal mentor for Atlanta's young players.
Numerous other clubs have been mentioned as suitors for Zobrist's services. At this point, the mere fact that there is a Zobrist rumor mill tells you how positive his prospects are for a happy free-agent ending.