The Chicago Cubs have Oakland Athletics everything-man Ben Zobrist as a target heading into this summer's trade season, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for the Chicago Sun-Times. Wittenmyer notes that Zobrist was a favorite of Cubs manager Joe Maddon when they were with the Rays, and that the Cubs could stand to improve their bench depth by using Zobrist around the diamond.
I could get into what the Cubs could possibly offer for Zobrist, who would otherwise almost assuredly be issued a qualifying offer at the end of this season. But it's only the end of May, and, according to Wittenmyer, Billy Beane is not even entertaining offers yet:
While it's widely expected the last-place A's will be sellers, industry sources say Billy Beane has not yet conceded and, consequently, not made Zobrist available. They've lost an astounding 15 one-run games, with several key players on the disabled list early. And they've told teams they believe they have a chance to get healthy and go on a run.
Let's say the A's stood pat despite their long odds to return to the postseason and held onto Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist. There's two supplemental draft selections after they decline their qualifying offers (or an expensive but short-term deal for an elite player) and there's value in holding onto the crazy possibility they climb out of the cellar.
The A's are still in decent shape to reshape their roster after this year! After shedding the salaries of Zobrist, Kazmir, Eric O'Flaherty, Nick Punto, and Tyler Clippard, and after arbitration raises, the A's will have payroll around $60-65 million. Joey Wendle should hopefully take over at second base, and our main targets for free agent acquisitions will be the bullpen and outfield help.
There will be a price for Zobrist or Kazmir that the A's won't be able to refuse that will help them in 2016 and beyond. But I think, on top of the price of giving up the supplemental draft pick, the A's must consider the price of telling the remaining players on the field this year that the front office does not see this team as one that can succeed in 2015.
This year's team is one that has been through more than its share of growing pains. It would be a shame if a return to the form expected by various measures of "bad luck", whether you want to cite run differential or Fangraphs' BaseRuns or one-run losses, is aborted before we had the chance to see what will happen.