The Chicago Cubs have reached agreement on a four-year, $56-million contract with baseball’s best utility man, Ben Zobrist.
The deal, which was first reported by Fan Rag Sports’ Tommy Stokke, gives the young Cubs a veteran leader who can play above average defense at nearly every position on the field. He’s also an outstanding hitter, having posted an OPS+ of 110 or more in seven of the last eight seasons, including a 120 last season for Oakland and Kansas City.
While $14 million sounds like a lot for a player who will be 38 at the end of the deal, it could be one of the best bargains of the winter. Over the last five seasons, Zobrist (or “Zorbist,” as former Tigers manager Jim Leyland always called a player he highly admired) has averaged 5.5 WAR per season. At the going rate of $7M for each WAR, he only needs to produce 8 WAR over the life of the contract to make the deal worthwhile for the Cubs.
The Royals obtained Zobrist just before the trading deadline in order to play left field while Alex Gordon recovered from a groin injury. When Gordon came back late in the regular season, Zobrist moved effortlessly to second base. In 59 games for Kansas City, he hit .284/.364/.453 with seven homers, while also spending time at third base and in right field.
He played every inning of the postseason for the World Series champions, hitting .303/.365/.515 and scoring 15 runs in 16 games.
The 34-year-old has spent most of his career as a middle infielder and corner outfielder, appearing in five postseasons between Tampa Bay and Kansas City. At this point in his career, he can play six positions comfortably, and can fill in as a center fielder in a pinch.