Ben Zobrist has quietly put together a very nice career. After spending nine years with the Tampa Bay Rays, Zobrist was traded to Oakland during the 2015 offseason. Halfway through his first season with the Athletics, the utility player was traded to the Kansas City Royals, where Zobrist would be a key part to the franchise winning its first World Series in 30 years. A two-time All-Star, Zobrist has never been the best player on the field, but he has been one of the most consistent, and one who can do nearly anything the manager asks of him. Consistency is something the New York Yankees have lacked recently, and picking up the versatile Zobrist would add depth in the field, and the lineup.
Over his 10-year career, Zobrist is a .265 hitter, and over the past four years has hit above .270. Not a power hitter, Zobrist gives pitchers a tough time at the plate, fouling off a lot of pitches and putting the ball in play. For a top-of-the-lineup guy, driving in an average of 77 runs a year is very impressive. While his offensive numbers won’t blow anyone away, the real value that Zobrist brings to the table is the fact that he can play anywhere in the field. Over the course of his career, he has played every position except pitcher and catcher. Zobrist is primarily a second baseman, but he has played over 450 games in the outfield, as well as 229 at shortstop.
While a utility man is rare in Major League Baseball today (at least one who can make the All-Star team), many teams can certainly benefit from having one, including the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers did have one of the best utility men in baseball history in Miguel Cairo for a short time in the mid 2000’s, and that worked out great while the Yankees were reeling off championships. They got a solid bat in the lineup every now and then, while being able to rest their starters. Signing a utility man is something the Yankees should think about doing, and Zobrist could fill anywhere in the infield, as well as anywhere in the outfield.
The one thing the Yankees need to worry about before they think about signing Zobrist is figuring out what they are doing at second base. If the season started today, Brendan Ryan would be the Opening Day second baseman, and that won’t get it done. As I previously mentioned, the Yankees top priority this year should be to sign a second baseman. That is an area that hurt the team last year, and signing someone will help. The Yankees could get Steve Pearce on the cheap, and will have to give Zobrist a bit of a payday. Zobrist could prove his worth over the next several seasons, however.
If the Yankees don’t sign a second baseman, they do have youngsters Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder that can play. While these two have limited major league experience, 141 career at-bats combined, they have shown potential in their short time in the big leagues. These young talents will certainly help the Yankees for years to come, and having them see extended time in 2016 can develop them to the next generation of great Yankee second basemen.
Ben Zobrist is the most underrated free agent in this year’s free-agent class. He brings a lot to he table, and won’t cost a team a fortune to sign him due to his advanced age. The New York Yankees signing Zobrist would make sense for both parties. The Yankees will get a consistent, versatile veteran, and Zobrist will get to play alongside the best players in the world and make another run at a World Series. The Yankees need to figure out their second base situation first, and if the Yankees decide an external option would be best, Zobrist himself could be starting there come Opening Day.