Chicago Cubs: Ben Zobrist contract still worth it in the end

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The veteran utility man is in the twilight years of his playing career, but the contract he signed is still worth it. A key contributor to the 2016 Chicago Cubs and a great veteran presence helps maintain his value.

Ben Zobrist is entering the third year of his four-year, $56 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. Signed before the 2016 season, Zobrist brought a durable utility man with an above-average bat and postseason experience. This also made them move on from Starlin Castro, who was traded to the Yankees so they could get Zobrist. He was seen as a key missing cog in a World Series-winning team.

2016 was a good year for Zobrist, who was elected to the All-Star game and was the eventual World Series MVP. Last year, however, was a mighty struggle, slashing .232/.318/.375 in 128 games. He battled wrist issues and began showing some age. Now 36, Zobrist has also struggled in Spring Training as he slashed just .192/.300/.308 in his first 10 games. Still drawing walks but not hitting the ball hard.

When Zobrist came in, he was the number one second-baseman and utility outfielder. Things are looking to be different now with Javier Baez being a regular at second and Ian Happ being the key utility bat. Thus reducing Zobrist to a bench role for his last two seasons in Chicago.

Why signing him to the deal was worth it

Bringing on Ben Zobrist before the 2016 season was essential to their World Series run. They needed a guy with experience and a proven winner. He had just won the 2015 World Series with the Royals, batting .303 with a .360 OBP that postseason, and was a career .265/.355/.431 hitter. Not to mention he was a two-time All-Star in Tampa Bay under Joe Maddon, who is all about utility guys. The fit was perfect, and the Cubs wanted to land him before other teams did.

After his All-Star regular season in 2016, he had the most important go-ahead hit in Chicago Cubs history in game seven. His .357/.419/.500 slash in the World Series earned him the series MVP award. He came in and did what he was meant to do right away.; being an essential piece to a title. They had to give a little more to a guy who was going to turn 35 at the time.

Zobrist will be making $16.5 million this year and $12.5 million in 2019. May seem like a lot for an aging guy, but regarding how much money the Cubs have, it is not that bad. The biggest challenge is having room on the roster for everyone to have a solidified role.

His value moving forward

He may not be the guy who averaged a 5.1 fWAR from 2008-2016, and his bat may never be the same, but he can still make an impact. Coming off the bench as a utility man and switch-hitter brings lots of versatility. Also, note that last year Zobrist slashed .333/.400/.556 as a pinch hitter in 20 plate appearances. That could very well be his biggest strength moving forward.

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Does this mean Zobrist will not start many games? Not necessarily. He started in 105 games last year, and that could very well decrease, but he will still get some starts at second or in the outfield. In other words, no longer an every-day starter.

Even if Zobrist is just mediocre the rest of the way, his contract paid off. They got that 2016 World Series and that, at the end of the day, was what the contract was trying to do. Hopefully, Zobrist can rebound or at least be serviceable in 2018, but there should never be regrets signing him.