The future of Chicago Cubs utility man Ben Zobrist seems more and more uncertain by the day. No outcome can diminish what he has done for the franchise.
This week feels very bittersweet for many Chicago Cubs supporters. Theo Epstein landing star closer Craig Kimbrel has put the fanbase in a state of total euphoria, but when we say hello to one do we say goodbye to another? The move has increased the suspicion among fans that Ben Zobrist will not be returning.
Zobrist has been out since early May as he has dealt with divorce and taking care of three children. One could say, “Well many go through divorces but people still have to go to work.” Keep in mind that Zobrist having to go through a divorce in several states and having kids to worry about is much harder for professional athletes who are on the road traveling constantly. It is family first for him and how he deals with it is his business.
At 38 years old and big changes in his personal life, it is getting hard to see him returning to play baseball. No official word has been given so we cannot say for certain he is done, regardless it has been an incredible ride that should never be taken for granted.
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A look at his numbers and accomplishments
Epstein has made a number of big moves, and Ben Zobrist is absolutely one of the best free agent signings in his Cubs tenure next to Jon Lester. Certainly can be argued he is the best position player free agent he’s landed. After winning a World Series with the Royals, Zobrist signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Cubs on December 8th, 2015. The Mets really wanted him but Theo won that battle (after the NLCS sweep a few months earlier).
"“I prayed during free agency last year to be a Chicago Cub.” -Ben Zobrist at the World Series rally"
His 2016 season was really all Zobrist needed to make his contract 100% worth it. An All-Star nod with a .272/.386/.446 slash, 124 wRC+ and 18 homers often get forgotten about because of what he did in the World Series. His .357/.419/.500 slash in the Fall Classic, including the most important go-ahead double in franchise history, earned him the World Series MVP honors. Everything he has done after that season is gravy.
In his Cubs career as a whole, he posts a .269/.362/.412 slash with 39 homers, 194 RBIs and an 8.1 fWAR in 440 games. His plate discipline and ability to seemingly get to a full count in a majority of at-bats proved to be huge for the offense. In a big situation with runners on, or where a runner needs to get on, Zobrist is one of the guys you would want batting. Versatility allows him to play most days whether it was second base or the outfield which helped him fit on the team perfectly.
His legacy is solidified no matter what
Zobrist’s decision to play or not should not have any negative effects on his legacy. He is cemented in Cubs history forever. His World Series heroics were dreams that came true for long-suffering Cubs fans. No Ben Zobrist, no World Series. Not only is he an exceptional ballplayer, but an incredibly classy guy who is great to his fans. It makes it very hard to see such a respected player go through a rough time.
Let’s say Zobrist does decide to hang up his glove and cleats, is it really goodbye? Maybe not. He has meant so much to the organization that there may be a place with it in the future. NBC Chicago’s Tony Andracki reported that Zobrist wanted to become a bigger clubhouse leader. Could a coaching gig be in the future for him? His personality would fit great for modern baseball clubhouses and dugouts. Only time will tell for sure. Right now his focus has to be on his family.
Until we hear the official word about Ben Zobrist’s status, we cannot 100% assume he will not be back. It just feels more than likely he will not and being prepared for it is just naturally what we are doing as fans. When a player means so much to a team and fanbase we think about it a lot. In the end, we wish for the very best for our World Series hero.