Ben Zobrist would certainly be a nice upgrade in right field for the Kansas City Royals. The Royals find themselves with enough overall talent, if it produces like it has over the last two weeks plus, to be a buyer rather than a seller over the next month or so.
The Royals return home from a 6-1 road trip in which they took over the lead in the AL Central from the Detroit Tigers. That lead is the slimmest possible advantage, and there is no way the Royals should feel safe.
Right field is on of two extremely weak positions on the field for Kansas right now, third base being the other. Off-season acquisition Nori Aoki just hasn’t played as well as hoped, and hasn’t been that good of a lead off hitter. His .328 On Base Percentage is well below the career .355 OBP he had coming into the season.
Ben Zobrist is a very attractive option for the Royals. The Tampa Bay Rays are already 16 games below .500 and have to be ready to deal. While Zobrist is not a candidate to bat lead-off (not sure who would), but he would certainly deepen an improving offense.
Paul York included Zobrist on his list of possible trade candidates earlier in the week. Zobrist is maybe the most viable target.
Zobrist is 33 and is near the end of his present contract. He is off to a slow start thus far, and therefore could be had relatively cheaply. He shouldn’t cost two or three top prospects. This season, Zobrist slash line is .248/.323/.372/.695, with just 5 home runs and 15 RBI in 60 games.
At first glance, these numbers are hardly better than Aoki’s – .264/.328/.326/.653, with no homers and 14 RBI in 67 games.
Zobrist does offer some extra base power though. He has averaged 40 doubles over the past three seasons, and 17 home runs. In fact, statistically, he is not far off from being Alex Gordon, though Zobrist is certainly on the downhill part of his career, and is not the out outfielder Gordon is.
The best thing about acquiring Ben Zobrist is that his salary is affordable. If the Royals can move quickly, he will only cost them about $3.5 million this season. Next season, his salary moves up to $7.5 million, but there is a club option with a $500,000 buyout.
The Royals could trade for Zobrist, and if it proves to be a mistake, that his declining numbers are due to age and a slower bat, then the Royals can cut him after the season and it will have cost them $4 million, or $1.2 million less than Luke Hochevar this season.
The next best thing is that Ben Zobrist can give occasional relief to Omar Infante at second base, and even Alcides Escobar at shortstop. Escobar isn’t going to sit out more than 3 or 4 times, health permitting, the rest of the season, but he will need days off.
Zobrist can even fill in at third, allowing Mike Moustakas to sit against tough left-handed starters
By bringing in Zobrist, he could be come the every day right fielder, and can give rest to the middle infielders on occasion, and sub in for Moustakas. Pedro Ciriaco can return to AAA, and the Royals could keep both Jarrod Dyson and Nori Aoki on the roster.
Zobrist would give the Royals more flexibility and would strengthen the bench.
The biggest question is if Zobrist’s stats over the first portion of this season are what can be expected.
He isn’t the big bat the Royals really need, but they will not be able to find that kind of player available, and if by chance a power hitting right fielder became available, the Royals won’t be able to afford him.
Zobrist’s style of hitting – with a lot of doubles and some decent power – will for in nicely with the Royals line up. His versatility will give Ned Yost some flexibility.
He is a switch hitter, which is even more appealing, though he is much better as a right hand hitter this season. (.298 BA, compared to .232).
He would be more of a threat day in and day out, than Aoki. He is versatile in the field, and he is affordable. He can fill spots the Royals need – right field, and insurance for the middle infield positions, and third base.
If the Rays asking price isn’t to high, Dayton Moore should be trying to acquire Zobrist sooner rather than later.
According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Royal have interest, and Morosi sees it as a nice fit:
The Royals do have interest in the switch-hitting Zobrist, according to one major-league source, and he would fit their roster in a number of ways: He can play right field and third base, positions at which Nori Aoki and Mike Moustakas, respectively, have struggled to hit for stretches this year. He’s regarded as an excellent teammate, would bring postseason experience to a young clubhouse, and played with Shields in Tampa Bay for many years.
A quick move here would be a bold move from Moore. He would announce to the Tigers and the rest of the AL Central, that the Royals are actually very serious about winning right now.
This franchise and its fans are desperate for a playoff team, one that can not only make the playoffs, but also win some games once the get there. Ben Zobrist won’t make the biggest impact in the world, but he would be an improvement, and he is a realistic target for the Kansas City Royals.