Seven Free Agent Signings That Will Impact Playoff Races in 2016

Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

Number 7: Second baseman Ben Zobrist

When the Chicago Cubs swooped in and signed veteran second-baseman/utility infielder Ben Zobrist during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, I immediately regarded it as one of the best signings by any team this offseason.

Oh and by the way, my belief on this signing hasn’t changed one bit and it won’t change at all barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Right about now those of you reading this are probably calling me crazy. Why would Theo Epstien, Jed Hoyer, and company sign a 34-year-old entering the latter stage of his career to a four-year deal worth $56 million ($14 million per year)?

One of the Cubs’ biggest issues moving forward is they have too much depth and talent in the infield and can’t afford to keep all of them, yet they signed a veteran to play in the infield.

How does that make sense? It makes perfect sense for many reasons. First, grabbing Zobrist off the market gave the Cubs enough time to trade Starlin Castro, a player that I am not a fan of, and trust me Zobrist is a clear upgrade, especially defensively.

Second, Zobrist gets the chance to reunite with his former manager Joe Maddon. The native of Eureka, Illinois, spent the first eight years of his major-league career with the Tampa Bay Rays and got to the World Series in 2008, eventually losing to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Zobrist is coming off his first ever World Series title with the Royals in 2015 and knows how to win. This should help a fairly young Cubs team take the next step. Granted this team did experience the postseason last October, but for all the young guys that was their first rodeo.

Simply put, Zobrist and the Cubs are a perfect match for each other, and will help put the Chicago over the top in the N.L. Central in 2016, and keep the team out of the wild card game.

Wrap your mind around this: Cubs hitters struck out 1,518 times in 2015, the third-highest single-season total in MLB history. It was the team’s clear kryptonite and contributed to their early exit in the divisional round.

On the other hand, the switch-hitting Zobrist was one of only 13 major-league hitters in 2015 to have 140 or fewer strikeouts over the past two seasons with at least 1,100 plate-apperances.

In other words, the Cubs were one of the least patient teams at the plate in 2015, and Zobrist is one of the most patient hitters in baseball.

He will have an immediate impact at the plate, on the field, and in the clubhouse for this team. I think Zobrist more than any other player will help propel this team to a deep October run.

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