Chicago Cubs could see Ben Zobrist return before seasons end

Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

There’s been little said about the Chicago Cubs and Ben Zobrist and his leave. But Theo Epstein has left the door open that he could return this season.

With the situation that Ben Zobrist is going through, the Chicago Cubs are more concerned with him taking care of his family matters than playing baseball. But Theo Epstein has maintained consistent contact with Zobrist while he has been away from the team and didn’t count out a return this season. If not, Zobrist may have played his last game as a Cub, and it was a great run.

Some might wonder how that is possible, as the Cubs used some of the savings from Zobrist’s time on the restricted list to sign closer Craig Kimbrel. The Cubs had not assumed he wouldn’t return, but the savings in the time he’s been on the restricted list allowed the Kimbrel signing to happen.

It isn’t impossible to see Kimbrel and Zobrist on the same field, but it’ll depend more on Zobrist as he finalizes his divorce with his wife, Julianna Zobrist. They have three children, which makes things even harder than they would be just getting a divorce.

Speaking to the media before yesterday’s loss to the Dodgers, Epstein had this to say about the situation.

"“There’s been a little definition added to it, maybe since we last spoke, “His priorities right now have to be with his family situation. There could be a point later on where that would allow him to be ready and come back. But nothing’s been determined yet. I should say there’s been some more definition, too, on how he hopes this thing might go.” h/t Patrick Mooney, The Athletic (Subscription required)"

The Cubs generally set aside an allotment for trade season, and it’s possible they pulled some from this to sign Kimbrel. But that, in a combination of the savings from Zobrist’s deal made it an easier move to make.

"“I’ve been in constant touch with Zo,” Epstein said. “He knows the door is open, and I think he’s got an idea in mind on how he’d like this to go. But his priorities are clear, and that’s family first, so for the immediate future, that’s what he’s going to be tending to."

I’ve personally been through a divorce, and my parents are divorced, as well. For me, there were no kids, and it still was a difficult situation. My parents had an amicable split and didn’t bicker over child support, the time I’d spend with each of them, etc. Even then, it was still a lot of legal stuff they had to go through. With two parents who travel regularly, the Zobrist’s situation can’t be an easy one–especially for the kids.

And then you have to look at what he’s playing shape will be. Kimbrel had been working out, throwing regularly, and shouldn’t need much time to get ready to be ready. The Chicago Cubs and Zobrist haven’t divulged much as to what’s going on. It’s possible he’s done some hitting, fielded some ground balls. But the proceedings and his family have taken the majority of his time away. Another Kyle Schwarber for the playoffs? Maybe. We can hope.

Next. Cubs will need more than Kimbrel to fix bullpen. dark

Zobrist has always seemed like an ageless wonder, but when you start to slow down, you’re not doing the things you’ve been doing day in, day out? You begin to lose them pretty quick. Before cancer, I was starting to do less. Less softball. Less basketball. It hasn’t been that long, but I’m afraid to shoot a jumper or play catch. I turn 40 this year. Ben is right behind me. Sometimes, the body tells you it’s time, not your mind.

It would be nice to see Zobrist don the pinstripes again. At least for a little while. But I think that even if he’s played his last game as a Cub, most fans will forever be happy that he was signed.