One of the most popular fan rumors this month links the Chicago Cubs to former Tampa Bay Rays utilityman Ben Zobrist. Could he be in the mix for Joe Maddon‘s club?
According to yet-another report, this time from Peter Gammons, the Cubs are one of several teams still in-the-running for the services of the Athletics’ standout.
According to Gammons, Chicago joins the likes of Kansas City, Pittsburgh and both New York organizations as clubs interested in Zobrist, who brings value not only with his bat, but with his well-noted defensive versatility.
This year for Oakland, the Eureka, Ill. native has appeared in games at all three outfield spots, as well as second base. With the Rays in 2014, Zobrist also played shortstop, while batting .272/.354/.395 in 146 games.
Of all the hot stove rumors we’ve heard related to Chicago, this one makes the most sense.
The team could desperately use a solid bat off the bench who could fill in all over the diamond as needed, and given Maddon’s familiarity with him from their time in Tampa together, it’s not much of a stretch to think a reunion could be in the works.
The biggest question moving forward is what Oakland will ask for in return, given Zobrist is set to hit free agency at the end of the season.
Last year, the Athletics dealt the likes of Billy McKinney, Addison Russell and Dan Straily to Chicago for a half-season of Jason Hammel and a year-plus of Jeff Samardzija, who they eventually flipped to the White Sox this offseason.
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We won’t be talking top prospects in exchange for Zobrist, who will likely be one of the most sought-after players in the next two weeks given his inherent value. But that being said, there’s likely going to be a team willing to overpay to win the bidding.
But will it be the Cubs?
Chicago definitely has the prospect depth to do just that, even taking Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant off the table for obvious reasons. It all comes down to whether or not the front office sees filling a bench role as a pressing issue or believes resources are better allocated elsewhere.
In the next two weeks, we’ll see plenty of players tied to the Cubs in rumors. But as we saw a couple years back with the acquisition of Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop from Baltimore, it’s not always the high-profile deal that pays the biggest dividends.
Adding Zobrist may be just that type of move.