It’s unclear if Ben Zobrist plans to play again in 2020, but if he does the Chicago Cubs need to bring back the seasoned veteran to lead in the clubhouse.
Until the Fall Classic wraps up, it’s all quiet on the rumor front. But once the confetti has fallen in either Washington, D.C. or downtown Houston, it’ll be off to the races for all 30 teams as they look to gear up for the upcoming 2020 season. That rings especially true for the Chicago Cubs, who are coming off their worst season in the last half-decade.
Theo Epstein has his new manager in former catcher David Ross. Now, the attention shifts to filling out the coaching staff and reshaping the roster – one that could see significant turnover in the coming months. But one guy who should be viewed more as an asset than anything else is 38-year-old Ben Zobrist.
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"“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist told NBC Sports Chicago in the season’s final days. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”"
The two-time World Series champion’s season won’t be remembered for his .377 on-base percentage down the stretch. Rather, he’ll be remembered for missing over half the season as he addressed personal matters with his family and attempted to salvage his marriage.
All that (hopefully) behind him, the young-at-heart Zobrist could be the perfect fit for a team that will likely find a new identity under Ross, rather than the play-it-loose mentality that dominated the clubhouse under Joe Maddon.
Second base, Zobrist’s primary position at this point in his career, is a huge question mark for the Chicago Cubs. Non-tendering Addison Russell seems like a no-brainer at this point given his constant off-field issues and poor performance last season. Daniel Descalso played hurt or was sidelined pretty much all of last season and you don’t really know what you’re getting there moving forward, either.
I’m not suggesting Zobrist is the guy you pencil in there for 145 games in 2020 – because he’s not that player anymore. But having him as your go-to bench guy makes a lot of sense for this team. He can play second and in the corner outfield spots and brings a more professional approach to the plate than any player not named Anthony Rizzo.
His days of earning north of $10 million annually are behind him. If the Cubs can tempt him with a one-year deal to end his career in a way worthy of him and the years he’s spent in the game, they should do so. He’ll bring a calming hand, a passion and a dedication to winning that was missed in a big way last season.