Chicago Cubs: Veteran Ben Zobrist might be out of time
The Chicago Cubs’ Ben Zobrist was a shell of himself last season. From his struggles to injuries, nothing seemed to go right. Is his time wearing thin in Chicago?
The Chicago Cubs‘ 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist didn’t have a great season. The 36-year-old had a slash line of .232/.318/.375 and was only a 0.5 WAR player according to Baseball Reference. That’s not exactly MVP caliber.
Out of those numbers, the one that scares me the most is the on-base percentage. For a guy who’s made his bread and butter as a guy who could draw a walk, this isn’t cutting it. And unless you’re a pitcher, .318 isn’t going to cut it for an everyday hitter.
Just to put that in perspective for you if you’re a big sabermetrics guy, his OPS + was 79 (the average is 100).
I’m taking into account the fact that Zobrist was hurt for a fair amount of the 2017 campaign, missing 34 games. However, 128 games is still a pretty big sample size.
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Surprisingly, to me at least, Baseball Reference is projecting him to have a bounce-back year this upcoming season. They’re predicting he’ll slash .250/.343/.411 to go along with 14 homers.
While that still is an improvement, are those numbers you would be happy with? Because even if he achieves those numbers, I think a guy like Ian Happ should be getting more of Happ’s at bats.
In 13 fewer games than Zobrist, Baseball Reference gave him a 1.8 WAR, 1.3 points higher than Zobrist. Everybody knows what Zobrist’s ceiling is. The jury is still out regarding Happ.
Of course, this is contingent on whether or not Ian Happ will be a member of the 2017 Cubs, given the latest trade rumors.
Can you trade Zobrist? Nah, you probably can’t. Well, hang on a sec. Ah…nevermind.
His trade value is so low you couldn’t get anything significant for him unless maybe you seek him into a deal as a salary dump. That reminds me, Ben Zobrist makes a lot of money!
He’s going into his third year of the four-year $56 million deal. That’s a lot of money for someone who you don’t trust to be an everyday position player.
Reports are saying that Zobrist is working hard this offseason, and good for him if he is. I’m not trying to root against him, but I don’t think it’s that radical that I would like to see younger players get a shot instead of him.
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So the question is what do you do with Ben Zobrist? If I’m Theo you have to see what he’s like in Spring Training and early on in the season. If he’s back to the Zobrist of old, keep him in a start five out of every seven games role.
But if he’s not so good, you have to consider eating his contract. And I know that’s harsh, and I don’t want to be a downer, but the Cubs want to maximize their championship window. You can’t be worried about feelings when trying to win.