Why a Ben Zobrist Trade is a Long Shot

The Ben Zobrist trade rumors have been swirling for quite some time now, as he was thought to be available during the trade deadline last season and has seen his name pop up again this offseason. Now that the Rays have signed infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, Zobrist is even more likely to be traded.

As we’ve noted before, Zobrist would be an outstanding fit for the Reds. Zobrist is incredibly versatile (has played every position except pitcher and catcher) and gets on base frequently (.354 career OBP), something the Reds desperately need. Penciled in at the top of the lineup in left field, he’d fit in perfectly with the Reds and improve their offense considerably. On paper, there’s really no reason the Reds shouldn’t go out and get him. However, there are two big reasons the Reds will have a hard time acquiring Zobrist: competition from nearly every other team in baseball and the asking price from the Rays.

The reasons that Zobrist would be a perfect addition to the Reds are the same reasons he’d be a perfect addition for every team in baseball. According to Fangraphs, he’s been worth over 35 wins since his first full season as a starter in 2009–second to Miguel Cabrera.  Zobrist’s value comes not just from his bat, but from his versatility, as he bats from both sides of the plate and plays second base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions. Zobrist is owed $7.5 million next season, making him affordable for most teams. The Nationals, Giants, and Yankees have infield needs and will likely be interested in him, but you can bet that Rays general manager Matthew Silverman will be receiving phone calls from many other GMs in the coming days, leaving the Reds with stiff competition.

Walt Jocketty will undoubtedly be on the dialing end of one of those calls to Silverman and the Rays will want a lot in return for such a valued player. Do the Reds have the assets to outbid another team for his services? And if they do, should they give up those assets? It would be a risky move to do so, given that they’d be looking at another Shin-Soo Choo situation and would only have one year of control on Zobrist before he becomes a free agent. Jocketty has previously said that top pitching prospects Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen are untouchable, so two highly valuable players are off the table already. It can be assumed that Jesse Winker is off limits as well. The Reds have other players they could trade, but would they be able to offer more than 28 other teams? At the end of the day, the Rays’ asking price will likely be too much for the Reds.

Based on Jocketty’s stance with Stephenson and Lorenzen, it appears that the Reds value their future and while they say they want to be competitive in 2015, giving up their top prospects for one year of Zobrist might be something they aren’t willing to do. Even if they are, outbidding 28 other teams will not be an easy task. When it comes down to it, the Reds will probably settle on a different solution for left field, whether it be Nori AokiColby Rasmus, Winker, or even (gulp) Skip Schumaker.