Ben Zobrist

2008-2014: It was a good run, but like all good things, it has come to an end.

As rumblings of a Ben Zobrist trade grow louder, this is the latest and strongest evidence yet that the Rays are in full-rebuilding mode and the 2015 season is being led to the slaughter.

Of course, the Rays will dismiss the notion that they are giving up on the season before it starts. They will tell you how they are competing to win in 2015 and yes, the Rays still have too much talent to be really bad.

But this roster is an 85-win team at best and would need everything to break their way to compete. Trading Zobrist makes that task even harder which means the Rays are looking more towards 2016 and beyond and are less concerned about putting together a winning roster in 2015.

Zobrist is everything the Rays value in a position player. He plays multiple positions well, he’s a switch-hitter who puts up offensive numbers the Rays value, and most importantly, he is underpaid.

For what Ben Zobrist can bring to the team, he is a steal at $7.5 million, his 2015 salary.

Last year, Zobrist was worth 5.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and according to Fangraphs.com that level of production is worth $31.2 million. He made $7.0 million.

Over the last four years, Zobrist’s production has been worth an average of $28.2 million. His total salary during that time was $21.7 million.

He’s a bargain and the only team that values a bargain more than the Rays is the Rays when they are in rebuilding mode.

If the Rays were serious about winning in 2015, they would keep Zobrist and either move him at the trade deadline or keep him and take the draft pick compensation when he leaves in free agency.

But that is not going to happen and the 2015 season will be over before it starts.

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14 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    There's no problem with rebuilding, it has to be done. We had a nice run and even made it to the World Series in 2008 now it's time to reload our farm. Obviously all Rays fans love Zobrist but now is the time to trade him.

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  2. Skateman says:

    I don't think it's an either/or proposition. The Rays have to balance both the present and the future. Trading Zobrist gives away a little of the present, but not everything. The team is still set up pretty well next year, and that's without considering the return of a Zobrist trade, such as Andrew Susac from the Giants. Jason Hanselman at Dock of the Rays noted in a comment at Draysbay that (concerning potential WAR)

    "I think a DeJesus/Souza DH gives us 2-3 wins and a Guyer/Souza LF gives us another 2-3 wins. Jennings in CF is another 2-3 wins and Kiermaier in RF is another 2-3 wins. Franklin/Cabrera at 2B is another 2-3 wins. Yunel at SS is another 2-3 wins. Loney at 1B is 1-2 wins. Rivera and another catcher [Susac?] could be 1-3 wins. If Longo gives us 5-7 wins and the pitching holds up at all phases then you’re looking at a division contender. All of this is pretty realistic not requiring any large leaps of faith."

    I know it makes a great headline to say the Rays are in fire-sale mode and throwing in the towel for 2015, but not a single one of the moves they've made so far suggests this is the case. Even a Zobrist trade, if it brings back a catcher like Susac, may be as much an acknowledgement that as great as Zobrist is, we might be able to get enough WAR from new guys to almost make up for it in the short term and definitely make up for it in the longer term.

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    • Drew says:

      If you go by the ZIPS projections, it looks like this:
      Guyer/Souza - 2/3
      Jennings - 3
      Kiermaier - 2
      Longoria - 4
      Escobar - 1
      Cabrera - 2
      Loney - 1
      Casali/Rivera - 1/2
      Bullpen - 4
      STARTERS:
      Cobb - 4
      Archer - 3
      Smyly - 3
      Odorizzi - 1
      Colome (or whoever) - 1

      That totals 33 WAR - 17 for position players and 16 for all pitchers.
      Last season, the Rays position players had 20 WAR and 16.5 from all pitchers.

      Hanselman is projecting anywhere from 19-30 WAR for just the position players. That seems pretty unrealistic based on the projections and the numbers from last season.

      I'd also like to get my two cents in: Odorizzi will have more than 1 WAR this season (barring injury).

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      • Drew says:

        Or, by this method, combining Zips and Steamer:
        http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=Team
        This projects the Rays batters to have 25 WAR and pitchers to have 11 WAR for a total of 36 WAR. This includes Zobrist though.
        I also just forgot about DH. I think 0-1 WAR is a reasonable expectation.

        Using either method would put the Rays as the 8th-15th best team next season. We'll see what ends up happening.

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  3. ljk says:

    If they could get a major league ready quality catcher that can hit (Andrew Susac?), you could argue that the lineup could be as good as 2014. Better at catcher, worse at 2B, and unknown in RF.

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  4. Paco says:

    Would any club in baseball be willing to pay Zobrist $31 million to do what he did last year? Hells no. He hit .272 with 10 homers and 52 rbi. So where do these crazy Fangraph production values come from? $7.5 million is probably just about right considering his production last year and the versatility he provides. Is he a good value? Probably. An amazing bargain the Rays just can't afford to give up? I don't think so.

    I love Zobrist and appreciate everything he's done for the Rays, but if they can get potential high-upside guy(s) for him now, then he should be traded.

    And I would disagree that trading him for a good prospect or two equals giving up on 2015. If we can't get at least .270 and 10 homers from our current options at 2nd base/outfield, then i'll be surprised and quite disappointed.

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  5. Dave L says:

    The minor rebuild premise would be based on what we have done so far. In trading Helli, Ramos and Peralta we got a bunch of A ball prospects and a 24yo reliever with limited MLB innings.

    The Hannigan Myers trade seems more based on selling high on a guy before the ROY glow completely wears off. That was more like a mostly Myers for Souza a wash in age and perceieved talent and Hannigan+ some Myers for a boatload more low minors guys. So yeah we got a hell of alot younger.

    If we trade Zo for a slew of MiLB with alot of promise but no MLB 2015 ready guys then yeah its a build toward 2016.

    I think Susac is a pipe dream for Rays fans. The Giants are too smart.

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    • Skateman says:

      They traded Wheeler for half a year of Carlos Beltran, which was a hideous deal. Susac's blocked by Posey (and even Belt at first). They should absolutely trade him. The question is whether Zobrist is worth it to them? I think he fits perfectly as COF + insurance if Panik doesn't pan out.

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      • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

        You're right. They'd trade Susac, but I don't think Zobrist is a high enough ransom. They may want the Rays to throw in a second-level pitching prospect to sweeten the pot, and that could be exactly why the deal has been a rumor and nothing more...

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      • Dave L says:

        When many were saying Zo for Susac + another top prospect I was the one to assert that Zo alone was not enough for Susac here a few days ago........

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        • OriginalTom says:

          I still believe it will take more than Susac for the Giants to get Zobrist. Susac will be 25 YO on opening day has only 23 big league AB's and is projected by steamer to hit .224/.304/.355.

          As far as this being the first time the Rays are rebuilding they made similar trades with Garza after 2010 and Shields after 2012. Oh yeah and they have not traded Zobrist yet, they could still trade Escobar or any of the outfielders to open a spot for Cabrera.

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          • Dave L says:

            Yeah we have a simple disagreement about what we can get for Ben.

            Its ironic I spent the last 12 months arguing trade Zobrist! He's a WAR master! Plays all middle infield and corner outfield position with aplomb! Switch hitter! Super high character clubhouse quiet presence.

            Stats say he was 14th best WAR position player in 2014. Above Cano in WAR in 2014........

            Now a +$30M value player? Whoa slow down

            If we are expecting Price value we will be left at the altar

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  6. OriginalTom says:

    I think my disagreement is I do not think Susac is 2/3 of what we received for Price. If we do not get a decent haul for Zobrist, I would not mind being left at the altar. Being "stuck" with Zobrist for the 2015 season is not the worst thing in the world.

    Cabrera will also be the 41st player on the roster so if they do trade Zobrist they will need to throw in some player or designate other player for assignment.

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  7. TOM says:

    Keep Zobrist, trade Escobar.

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