Theo Epstein was asked about the lack of moves made this offseason by the Chicago Cubs last week. His response?
“I think the winter meetings are going to be pretty wild,” while talking to reporters.
Wild is a pretty accurate way to describe what happened today. Long-time Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was traded to the Yankees, and without skipping a beat, Epstein and Jed Hoyer made a move that will ideally mend the broken hearts of many Cubs fans who watched Starlin Castro in Cubbie blue since we was nineteen years old.
That move came in the form of free agent signee Ben Zobrist. Zobrist, who turns 35 this coming season, is coming off of a season where he batted .276 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs. He is also a switch hitter which adds to his value as an offensive player. These numbers don’t jump off the page at you, especially considering his age, but there is more to his value than that.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) December 9, 2015
One of the biggest achilles heels of the 2015 Cubs was how many times they struck out. Zobrist does not have that problem. Zobrist struck out a mere 56 times over 126 games in 2015. That in itself is an impressive figure, but when you take into account that he also walked 62 times, it is absolutely incredible. Zobrist will hopefully provide a high on base percentage for the top of the Cubs lineup (I predict he will bat in the two hole). He will steadily get on base in front of guys like Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo which will increase their run production and increase their value as run producers.
Zobrist also provides value on defense. He is a player that can play infield or either corner outfield position, and play them well. He is the epitome of a utility man, and in my opinion there is no better manager in baseball at putting players in position to succeed than Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
Now lets talk about money — which may be the most exciting part of it all.
Zobrist signed a 4 year 56 million dollar deal. That may seem like a lot of money for a player who will be 35 years old only two months into the season, but when you consider his value and how his skillset projects as he ages, it’s an absolute steal. Zobrist will probably lose another step or two, but that’s okay, because we didn’t sign him to steal bases or play center field. Zobrist is going to continue to take walks. He’s going to continue to hit 10-20 home runs, and he’s going to continue to provide veteran leadership – with a winning attitude – that could just take this Cubs team to the next level.
The winter meetings have been quite the experience so far, and they aren’t over yet. Buckle up and enjoy the ride, Cubs fans.