Tampa Bay Rays Ben Zobrist can play infield and outfield, is 33 and will be a free agent after next season, so it’s time to examine potential trade partners because it makes sense that the Rays will try to move him
Surprisingly, relatively little has been written or said about the possibility of a Ben Zobrist trade.
That should change soon.
There’s a decent chance Zobrist will be traded between now and Opening Day, for a number of reasons:
• The Tampa Bay Rays’ financial circumstances dictate that they listen to offers on virtually their entire roster — particularly before players enter free agency, which the 33-year-old Zobrist will do after the upcoming season.
• Zobrist will earn $7.5 million in 2015, at a time when the Rays are (a) trading veterans and (b) reducing their payroll from this year’s franchise-record high.
• Zobrist is perhaps the most valuable position player any team plausibly could acquire between now and the start of the season. His 5.7 Wins Above Replacement in 2014, according to FanGraphs.com, is the highest among free agents and readily available trade candidates.
• His positional flexibility enables him to fit with more teams than other free-agent and trade alternatives. Zobrist started games at five defensive positions this year: second base (74), shortstop (23), left field (17), right field (16), and center field (7). While second base has been his primary position in three of the past four years, Zobrist started 59 games in right field as recently as 2012.
So, which clubs would he fit for 2015?
Well, the Mets need a shortstop. The Nationals need a second baseman. The Mariners, Rangers, Cubs, Reds, and Giants need another outfield bat. Conceivably, the Twins could upgrade their infield or outfield.
Of course, Zobrist plays all of those positions.
The Orioles also need an outfield bat, while the Yankees and Blue Jays have unsettled middle-infield positions. Their names were omitted from the above list because the Rays traditionally have avoided doing business with their American League East competitors.
But considering ex-Rays general manager Andrew Friedman just traded Matt Kemp to his nearest in-division rival, perhaps we shouldn’t rule out any possible destinations for Zobrist quite yet.