There’s a boomlet in Ben Zobrist chatter today.
It’s been precipitated by Jon Morosi’s (FOX Sports) suggestion ofÃ‚Â a decent chance the Ray’s 2B/RF/LF/SS/CF/1B will be traded before Opening Day. Zobrist has played all over the field defensively for the Rays since 2008, while hitting .264/.354/.429. Since one of the positions he plays is left field, Zobrist is a logical fit for the Reds.
Ben Zobrist is a good baseball player. His 2014 walk rate (11.5) was close to his strikeout rate (12.8). He hit 10 home runs and stole 10 bases. He’s an above average fielder at several positions. And he’s a switch hitter who could bat second in the lineup — or lead-off if Billy Hamilton’s OBP remains stuck at or below .300.
Zobrist has one year remaining on his contract — a team option for $7.5 million. He’ll become a free agent next year. For true believers in the Jesse Winker 2016!Ã‚Â campaign, that’s what you call a perfect fit. The dollar figure is affordable under the Reds 2015 trim-to-spend plan. If the Reds acquire Zobrist and they aren’t in contention come July, he’d be easy to trade.
But the Reds shouldn’t and won’t likely pay the steep price for Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist will turn 34 in May. The aging curve bends for the Zorilla as it does for other players. Zobrist is the same age as Brandon Phillips. As with DatDude, evidence of Father Time’s presence mounts. Zobrist’s best year was 2009 and he had great seasons in 2011 and 2012. From 2009-2012, he averaged nearly 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.
But he’s not that player any longer. Expect half the power and half the number of bags swiped.
Zobrist is projected (by Steamer) to hit .262/.349/.400 in 2015, not that much different from Nori Aoki .279/.343/.371. (On the plus side, Zobrist hits with more power, is a much better base runner and outfielder than Aoki.)
Zobrist offered high value to Tampa Bay in part because they had a manager, Joe Maddon, who mixed and matched roles and lineup slots every day. They didn’t have establishedÃ‚Â players in RF, 2B and SS. Based on his first year filling out the lineup card, Bryan Price manages differently. Like his predecessor Dusty Baker, Price puts players into set roles and sees great value in keeping them there. Beyond the differences in managers, the Reds have regular players at 2B, SS, RF, 1B and 3B. Every time you pull Zobrist out of LF to give Brandon Phillips or Joey Votto a day off, you put Skip Schumaker in the starting lineup.
And even though he’s just a one-year rental, the market for Ben Zobrist will be bullish. Because Zobrist plays so many positions, plenty of teams will have demand for his services.
An indication of how steep that price could be was the Dodgers-Angels trade at the winter meetings. The Dodgers sent the second-best left handed pitching prospect in the majors, Andrew Heaney, to the Angels for one year of 2B Howie Kendrick. Zobrist is better than Kendrick.
Six years of Robert Stephenson for Ben Zobrist? Anyone?