Ben Zobrist had one of his worst seasons last year. My favorite Cub (guy partially responsible for me diving head first into baseball attention) barely played above retention last year and his batting (measured by OPS+) was 21% below average, vs a career 14% above.
Cubs reporter Carrie Muskat had a great article/interview on Zo this week:
A sore left wrist and neck issues nagged Zobrist most of last year, and he posted a .232 average, his lowest since breaking into the big leagues with the Rays. But the switch-hitter also admitted he began the 2017 season not fully recovered from back-to-back trips to the World Series, winning with the Royals in 2015 and the Cubs in ’16.”Last year, it was about getting the proper rest,” Zobrist said. “[Manager Joe Maddon] knew I was exhausted going into Spring Training last year … talking about rest as the next thing that we have to really pay attention to to make sure you’re playing at an optimum level.
I’m looking forward to seeing Ben after a longer off-season this year. His age (very high in baseball years) makes that less likely as the days go on, but I think he has a major bounce back year for the Cubs. His no-trade clause expires after this year and I don’t have any idea if he’s planning to play past his last year in the contract in 2019, but it saddens me to think of him on another team. If he has the kind of year I’m hoping for he’ll be a valuable (albeit not free) utlility man for that 2019 season whether with the Cubs or elsewhere. Theo and Joe like Ben but I don’t see him being an everyday player for Cubbies in 2019 which makes the $12M ($14M AAV) bite out of the budget feel a bit bigger. He’s a great presence in the clubhouse, though, and a fantastic ambassador for baseball.
I’ll be watching him on spring training games and looking for early signs of a vastly improved year. Go Ben! Go Cubs!