clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MLB free agent predictions: Where will Ben Zobrist sign?

New, comments

Baseball's perfect player will have a lot of suitors. But which one will ignore his age to give him a big contract?

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Zobrist is excellent. He used to be the most underrated player in baseball, then people started rating him just fine. Since becoming a full-timer in 2009, he's been the fifth-best player in baseball according to WAR, sandwiched between Joey Votto and Andrew McCutchen. The A's nabbed him at a substantial cost, and then the Royals jumped ahead of the market to steal him away from the A's, even though everyone wanted him. Now all he'll cost is money.

Ben Zobrist is old. For a baseball player, at least, and certainly for a premium free agent. If you consider him a second baseman, take a gander at this list of the most valuable second basemen in history after turning 35. The players before World War II probably aren't relevant to the discussion, which is extra scary.

Ben Zobrist is rich. Or he will be soon. His OBP is still golden, and he allows teams to mix and match daily. He's a switch-hitter without platoon splits, and he's comfortable all over the diamond. He probably could have handled shortstop in his prime, but the Rays were creative with how they deployed him, which is going to help Zobrist's wallet and his next team's flexibility.

Which teams should sign him? Which team will?

The ideal

/inhales

The Los Angeles Angels currently have some combination of Todd Cunningham and Colin Cowgill in left and Johnny Giavotella at second. Zobrist could help the Angels shore up both spots, while allowing for internal development.

The Oakland Athletics traded for Zobrist to help in second base last year, ostensibly, but injuries pushed him to the outfield often. They still have the same holes that led them to acquire him in the first place.

The Atlanta Braves could use more major league hitters at several positions, with third base making sense for Zobrist, along with an upgrade over Jace Peterson. Taking defensive pressure off Hector Olivera if he has a rough transition would have value, too.

The Milwaukee Brewers could move on from the Scooter Gennett Era, or they could simply delay the Jonathan Villar Era with a Zobrist deal.

The Chicago Cubs could deal Starlin Castro or Jorge Soler with a Zobrist signing, or they could get wacky and trade Kyle Schwarber for someone like Sonny Gray. Which is a fantasyland trade, but Zobrist would give them unimaginable options.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are currently penciling Chris Owings in at second base, and their lineup has them a lot closer to contending than you might think.

The Los Angeles Dodgers currently don't have a proven second basemen, and they have a gargoyle at the top of Dodger Stadium that poops out emeralds. You can probably figure this out.

The San Francisco Giants have a hole in left field and a second baseman coming off a serious back injury who could use occasional rest. They're a great match.

The Cleveland Indians currently have Jerry Sands atop their left field depth chart and Lonnie Chisenhall atop their right field depth chart, and no one's sure just how much Jose Ramirez is going to hit at third yet.

The New York Mets need Zobrist more than anyone, as they're losing Daniel Murphy and need the on-base percentage desperately. But even after a World Series appearance, you can't expect a small-market team to run out and spend all willy-nilly.

The Baltimore Orioles currently have a gaping hole in left field, and they might entertain an upgrade over L.J. Hoes in right. Jonathan Schoop is helpless against left-handers, so Zobrist could spot him there.

The San Diego Padres have a Spangenberg and a Solarte in the current lineup, with a right fielder who could use a defensive caddy and an extra 20 days off. They might not be the perfect fit, but Zobrist would certainly make them better.

The Philadelphia Phillies could use better baseball players at several positions.

The Pittsburgh Pirates might move Neil Walker to first now that Pedro Alvarez has been non-tendered. Or they could trade Walker in his, uh, walk year, like they've been seemingly threatening to do for years.

The Tampa Bay Rays don't have a spot open, but I have a feeling they could figure something out if Zobrist came to them with open arms and a desire to come back. Desmond Jennings in left would be a likely candidate to get moved if the Rays wanted to bring back one of the best players in franchise history.

The Cincinnati Reds probably don't need Zobrist if they're trading Todd Frazier or Jay Bruce, but it's not entirely wacky for them to build the best possible offense around Joey Votto and see what the young pitchers can do. Beats not trying at all.

The Kansas City Royals just won the World Series because they acquired Zobrist, and they might like to win the World Series again.

The Detroit Tigers could split Zobrist between third base and left, relieving some of the pressure on Nick Castellanos.

The Chicago White Sox might have the biggest second base hole in baseball, just like they did before the start of last season.

The New York Yankees probably want to see what Rob Refsnyder can do at second, but they also know that Zobrist would hit 40 homers for them just because that would seem so very Yankees.

The Astros, Rangers and Red Sox don't have an obvious fit. Neither do the Blue Jays, Nationals and Marlins. The Cardinals and Rockies seem set in the corners, and the Mariners and Twins probably are, too.

Except, all of those teams could sign Zobrist and trade someone from their active major league roster to acquire a starting pitcher. Which they're all looking for. Every team up there could sign Zobrist, trade someone away and make their team better.

Every team is the ideal place for Zobrist. All 30 teams could make an argument in two sentences about how he could make their team better. Ben Zobrist is Beyoncé. He's pizza. If you aren't a fan, you're in a very, very odd place and you need to reevaluate your decision making.

The likely

Well, that's the tricky part. See all that up there? That means there is no likely, no hard favorite coming down hard and scaring away the competition.

Except the Dodgers could use him, and they have the money. They have Andrew Friedman in the front office, and he's heard the good word of Ben Zobrist. He's spread the gospel himself, he has. It's an obvious fit.

An obvious fit, that is, if the Dodgers don't spend $200 million to keep Zack Greinke away from the Giants. If they do that, they might be less inclined to spend on a second baseman, which would allow the Giants to swoop in. He fits the Giants perfectly, too, and they might prefer a combination of Zobrist and Mike Leake to one boring old Greinke.

Maybe the Mets will actually spend some of that sweet pennant money on a player they desperately need. It would make too much sense, and Mets fans are right to scream about Zobrist from a bullhorn atop an overturned car.

But if you're looking for the likely, you might as well get boring.

Prediction: Dodgers, four years, $78 million

Lotta clams for a 35-year-old, alright. But if anyone could absorb the risk, it's the Dodgers, and you know the front office crafted the Ben Zobrist bandwagon lovingly by hand. If the Dodgers want him, they'll get him.

Previous free agent predictions:

Jeff Samardzija
Zack Greinke
David Price