The Cubs have beaten out the Mets, Nationals and Giants for Ben Zobrist‘s services.
He’s getting a four-year, $56 million contract.
Zobrist, who turns 35 in May, won a World Series with Kansas City after hitting .276/.359/.450 in 467 at-bats for the A’s and Royals last year. One of the game’s most consistent hitters, he’s batted between .269 and .276 each of the last five years, also posting at least a .350 OBP each season.
Unfortunately, Zobrist’s defensive numbers took a huge hit last year, both as a second baseman and as an outfielder. One could choose to ignore those metrics, but those are the same metrics that rated him as such a valuable defender earlier in his career.
Zobrist has indicated he’d prefer to focus on one position next year. The Cubs have the ability to trade Starlin Castro and/or Javier Baez and turn second base over to Zobrist. Left field is also an option, though that depends on what happens with Kyle Schwarber. Whether it happens in 2016 or not, Zobrist figures to spend the majority of his contract as a corner outfielder.
The rebuilding Braves have decided to go with a catching duo of 39-year-old A.J. Pierzynski and 30-year-old Tyler Flowers after signing Flowers to a two-year deal on Tuesday.
USATODAY’s Bob Nightengale reports that the contract is worth $5.3 million.
Flowers, a former Braves prospect, hit .239/.295/.356 in 331 at-bats as the White Sox’s primary catcher last year. He’s a career .223/.289/.376 hitter in 1,267 at-bats. While he wasn’t previously known for his defense, he’s recently gotten very good grades for his pitch-framing.
The Braves’ addition means there’s no longer any room on the team for former top prospect Cristian Bethancourt, who is out of options. He’ll likely be traded in the coming months.
With Ben Zobrist reportedly nearing his decision time, the Cubs could be looking to free up time for the super super-utilityman by sending Starlin Castro to the Yankees, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports.
The Yankees have second base open for Castro and wouldn’t be overly afraid of the $38 million he’s owed over the next four years. They could even send Brett Gardner back to the Cubs, matching up the salaries (Gardner is owed $38 million for the next three years or $48.5 million for four). It’s doubtful the Yankees would do that as a straight-up deal, though.
Newsday’s Marc Carig confirmed with a source that the Cubs are very much in on Zobrist.
Zobrist is close to deciding on his next team, and he’s indicated that he’d like to play one position primarily, preferably second base. The Cubs could make that happen, though the same goes for the Mets and Nationals. FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi reports that Zobrist has a four-year offer in hand.
UPDATE: The New York Post’s Joel Sherman says Gardner is not involved in the Cubs-Yankees trade discussions.
UPDATE 2: Rosenthal reports that Zobrist is choosing between similar offers from the Cubs and Mets.