Ben Zobrist Rumors

Reactions To The Ben Zobrist Trade

The Royals added their second major rental piece via trade earlier today, acquiring Ben Zobrist from the Athletics in exchange for right-hander Aaron Brooks and minor league lefty Sean Manaea. It’s another steep price for the Royals to pay, as they’ve now parted with their first-round picks from both 2014 (Brandon Finnegan) and 2013 (Manaea) in addition to their 2013 second-rounder (Cody Reed).

Here are some reactions from around the web…

  • Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with several Athletics players and GM Billy Beane about the move. “You’d rather be on the other end of it,” Beane told Slusser. “We’ve been on both sides in my tenure here, but you have to be realistic in evaluating your situation going forward. This season we had high hopes and we got off on the wrong foot….and it just snowballed.” Beane stressed that he has no plans to trade a player that is controlled beyond the 2015 season, Slusser adds. Beane said that Manaea wasn’t the type of player he thought he could get in a deal, but he’s happy to bring him on board. Athletics DH Billy Butler is familiar with Manaea from his time in the Royals organization. “I thought Manaea was untouchable,” said Butler, who praised Manaea’s “tremendous” arm.
  • Brooks was assigned to Triple-A following the trade, but he won’t stay there long. Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area tweets that Brooks will start Saturday’s contest for the Athletics. A roster move will have to be made prior to that happening, of course, though Brooks is already on the 40-man roster.
  • While Zobrist isn’t the player that he was a couple of years ago, he’ll still be a significant improvement over Omar Infante at second base (once he moves there upon Alex Gordon‘s return from the DL), writes ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required/recommended). Zobrist is at least a one-win upgrade, if not more, says Law, who finds the price paid by Kansas City a reasonable one. Manaea’s upside is tantalizing and Law has seen him at his best, but he also notes that he saw him unable to hold his velocity two weeks ago. Manaea’s injury history raises questions about whether he can handle the workload of a starter. If he proves durable enough, Law notes that Manaea can be at least a mid-rotation starter even with average velocity, or more if he can stay healthy and maintain his velocity deeper in games. Brooks fits the strike-thrower mold of Tommy Milone or Kendall Graveman he adds — a fringe rotation option for many teams that could succeed due to Oakland’s cavernous stadium.
  • Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com (video link) broke down the prospects acquired in the trade, praising Manaea’s “solid first full season” but explaining that the lefty dropped off MLB.com’s Top 100 on their midseason update, in part due to missing the first half of 2015 with non-arm related injuries. Mayo feels that if everything comes together for Manaea, he can be “at least” a No. 3 starter, but “has a chance to be much more than that.” Brooks doesn’t come with a big upside but has average stuff across the board and four-pitch mix that can pitch as a fourth or fifth starter. The Athletics’ trade activity over the past week has done quite a bit to restore what had been a declining group of Top 30 prospects and deepen Oakland’s farm, Mayo adds.
  • The Royals were pursuing Zobrist even before acquiring Cueto, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The team had, in fact, pegged Cueto and Zobrist as its two top targets entering the trade deadline, and they’ve managed to secure both pieces. As McCullough notes, last season, the Royals “spun their wheels” and tried for incremental upgrades at the deadline, pursuing deals for Marlon Byrd and Alex Rios without success. Riding a World Series berth and record attendance, however, the Royals have been able to take a win-now, all-in approach that the organization and its fans haven’t experienced before.
  • One NL exec told ESPN’s Jayson Stark that Manaea was the most surprising prospect he saw traded today, calling him an “impact player” and opining that the A’s did well to acquire him in the deal (Twitter link). Stark’s colleague, Buster Olney, tweets that he’s heard other teams praising the Athletics’ acquisition of Manaea as well.
  • MLBTR’s Zach Links was among the reporters on today’s conference call with Royals GM Dayton Moore. As Zach wrote, Moore said he doesn’t foresee making any significant additions between now and the trade deadline, so it would seem that the heavy lifting for Kansas City is out of the way.
  • Instagram users can check out our new @traderumorsmlb account for a glimpse of what Zobrist will look like in his new uniform when he joins the team, which will reportedly happen on Thursday.

Royals GM Dayton Moore Talks Zobrist Trade

Dayton Moore pulled off a major acquisition when he landed ace Johnny Cueto from the Reds on Sunday, but he didn’t rest on his laurels after that trade.  Today, he finalized another major deal when he acquired versatile veteran Ben Zobrist from the A’s.  Earlier today, I asked the Royals GM if he was under a mandate from ownership to go for broke this summer and make major moves.

We always have a mandate to put the best team on the field,” Moore told reporters on the conference call.  “Certainly the play of our team and how our players have responded gives us more motivation to make moves, but we’ve always tried to do whatever could at the deadline to make our team better for the second half, even when we weren’t competing.”

While Cueto came to K.C. before Zobrist, the GM explained that talks with Oakland actually started before the discussions with Cincinnati. There are still a few days to go until the trade deadline but Moore doesn’t expect to make another blockbuster deal between now and Friday.  Like a responsible Christmas shopper, it appears that Moore has avoided the rush to get the top shelf prizes.  Interestingly, however, he says the timing of it all was happenstance.

You’ll have to speak with [Reds GM] Walt [Jocketty] and [A’s GM] Billy [Beane], but for me, they were just satisfied with the package that was offered,” said Moore.  “I don’t think anybody is gonna execute a deal unless they’re as satisfied as they can be.  When we enter into these types of discussions for a player we want we are very aggressive.  We have a good idea of what we want and what we want to provide as far as the package goes and what they desire…No sense in stringing things out and creating unnecessary tension.  If you know at the end of the day that you’re going to get to a certain place, you might as well get there.”

Zobrist is expected to join his new teammates “in a day or two,” and when he gets in the mix, he’ll be slotted in left field rather than second base, where he’ll be filling in for the currently injured Alex Gordon.  There’s plenty of work ahead for Zobrist, Cueto, and the Royals, but it sounds like their GM is done with the heavy lifting for the week.


Royals Acquire Ben Zobrist

The Royals have officially acquired Athletics utilityman Ben Zobrist, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Young hurlers Aaron Brooks and Sean Manaea are the two pieces heading back to the A’s, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter link) were first to report. Kansas City will also pick up over $2MM, which covers a large piece of Zobrist’s remaining salary, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.

Jul 26, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Ben Zobrist (18) crosses home plate after an rbi single by third baseman Brett Lawrie (not pictured) during the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY SportsThe deal delivers the second major rental piece heading to Kansas City this summer, as the club already picked up Johnny Cueto from the Reds. After dealing a trio of young arms to get Cueto, and now agreeing to send out two more to add Zobrist, Kansas City is firmly committed to winning this year. The club surprised the baseball world with its World Series run last year, narrowly missing out on a championship, and obviously decided that the time to win was the present after a strong first half in 2015.

[RELATED: Royals GM Dayton Moore Talks Ben Zobrist Trade]

In Zobrist, the Royals have added a uniquely valuable asset who can help the team in several ways. Star outfielder Alex Gordon is still working back from a significant groin strain, creating a need in left field. And the club has received less-than-sterling results from Omar Infante at second. Presumably, Zobrist will move between those positions — as he has for much of his career — depending upon needs and matchups.

Zobrist was perhaps the most hotly pursued player in the league this year, as he looked to be a strong fit for multiple contenders and is only owed the balance of a $7.5MM salary this season. At 34 years of age and set to hit the market after the season, he’s a pure win-now rental.

Despite playing half of his game’s in Oakland’s cavernous ballpark, Zobrist has increased his power output after a down 2014 in that department. He’s also rebounded nicely after getting out of the gate slowly and dealing with injuries. All told, Zobrist owns a .268/.354/.447 slash over 271 turns at bat on the year, with six home runs. Those figures land right at his career mark of .264/.354/.430, so Kansas City will feel comfortable that they are still likely to receive typically strong work at the plate.

There are some additional concerns on the defensive side of the ledger, however. Zobrist has shuttled between the corner outfield and infield this year, as usual, but has been rated as a negative contributor in both positions by advanced metrics. But the Royals will surely feel comfortable utilizing him in either role the rest of the way, based upon his past record as a highly-regarded fielder.

Kansas City has certainly paid a considerable price to add Zobrist, after doing the same to bring in Cueto. Manaea came into the year rated the club’s third overall prospect by Baseball America, just behind the since-dealt Brandon Finnegan, and landed on many top-100 lists. He’s generally shown well since his draft position fell owing to a hip injury, leading to surgery, which allowed K.C. to grab him with an above-slot deal. Manaea earned a promotion to Double-A this season, but has struggled in two outings at that level. All said, he’s missed some time and thrown 31 2/3 total minor league frames on the year, posting a 3.69 ERA with 11.1 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9. There’s plenty of upside to dream on, but he’ll have a lot to show in Oakland.

Brooks, meanwhile, is a 25-year-old righty who has seen brief MLB action in each of the last two seasons. He’s spent most of his time in those campaigns at Triple-A, however, posting a cumulative 3.81 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 over 245 2/3 innings. Brooks seems like more of a depth add than the more variable, headlining Manaea.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Athletics “Deep” In Talks On Ben Zobrist, Could Strike Deal Soon

The Athletics appear to be engaged in “deep” discussions on utilityman Ben Zobrist, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports on Twitter. A deal could come together soon for the veteran rental piece, per the report.

Recent sales of Scott Kazmir and Tyler Clippard have placed Zobrist squarely on the block for Oakland, and we heard yesterday that he was likely the next piece to be moved. That’s not a major surprise, but one interesting development on the A’s side is the team’s decision to pursue lower-level minor leaguers in its two prior deals. GM Billy Beane cited the Astros model of stockpiling young talent in discussing his recent trades.

Zobrist has drawn interest from a wide array of teams, which is not surprising given his long track record of production, exceptional versatility, and affordable salary ($7.5MM this year). The 34-year-old will become a free agent after the year and looks like an amply reasonable qualifying offer candidate, so the return will presumably need to beat whatever value the A’s place on the draft pick they’d stand to recoup (assuming an offer would be extended and rejected).

Since an injury-filled and less-than-impressive start to the year, Zobrist has turned things on of late. All told, he’s slashing .268/.354/.447, good for a 122 OPS+ with half of his games being played in the O.co Coliseum. Though he has drawn unusually negative defensive ratings from UZR and Defensive Runs Saved, teams will probably place more stock in his history and current scouting reports.

Among the teams named as possible suitors, per recent reports, are the Royals, Nationals, Pirates, Yankees, and Cubs. The Mets had been seen as a possible trade partner, but seemingly passed on that opportunity in dealing for other infield and outfield options before nabbing Clippard yesterday.


Impact Of Clippard Deal: Beane On A’s, Latest On Zobrist

Earlier today, the Mets added a late-inning relief arm in Tyler Clippard. That move did not come as a major surprise, but it nevertheless created a ripple effect for the two teams involved, as well as the rest of the market.

  • Most notably, perhaps, Athletics GM Billy Beane indicated in his comments on the deal that the team could continue to build up lower-level prospect depth in its summer trades, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports“The Houston Astros have done a really good job of spending the last three or four years really creating a dynamic farm system,” said Beane, “and now they’re starting to reap the rewards of that. If we’re ever going to compete, we’re probably going to have to take a somewhat similar approach and at least make sure we’ve got young players that are coming through the system that will be here for a few years.” Oakland acquired younger players in both the Clippard trade and the earlier swap involving Scott Kazmir, marking something of a departure from the team’s winter moves (to say nothing of its win-now acquisitions last summer).
  • The Mets had been working on a deal with the Athletics that would have delivered not only Tyler Clippard, but also Ben Zobrist, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. But the clubs honed in on the reliever alone after New York went out and got Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Mets are out on Zobrist, though adding a pair of versatile pieces in Uribe and Johnson could lessen heir need.
  • Meanwhile, the Mets have clearly positioned themselves as buyers, and are still looking at corner outfield bats. As we also covered in that link, the Athletics seem uninterested in parting with controllable pieces like Josh Reddick — despite their apparent decision to load up on high-ceiling youngsters.
  • Zobrist will likely be the next player dealt away from the A’s, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. She sees the Royals and Nationals as the possible front-runners for his services. Oakland has drawn wide interest in the utility man extraordinaire, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with almost every contender having checked in on him. Joining Kansas City with active interest, per the report, are the PiratesYankees, and Cubs. We’ve heard no shortage of other clubs mentioned in recent weeks as well, as Zobrist’s MLBTR timeline attests.
  • While the Mets are earning plaudits in some circles for adding a quality pen arm without dealing away any top prospects, prospect analysts say that the return for Clippard might be better than many realize. Keith Law of ESPN.com writes that he’d rank Casey Meisner as the organization’s sixth-best prospect, just behind a touted group of names, giving him a #2 starter ceiling. That’s far too much to give up for a few months of a reliever who has not been pitching at an elite level this year, Law argues. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs is not quite as high on Meisner, but still tweets that he sees him as a solid return for Oakland.
  • Clippard becomes the second shoe to drop on the relief market, following the Cardinals’ acquisition of Steve Cishek. Check out MLBTR’s round-up of the relief market. We’ve heard rumblings on star Padres Craig Kimbrel today, and there are plenty of other high-end arms that could change hands.

Royals Interested In Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist

JULY 27: Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are expected to remain in the Ben Zobrist market “until the end,” which adds another versatile target to the list of Royals targets.

Zobrist, unlike Prado, is a rental player that’s eligible for free agency this offseason. He’s a bit more affordable, though, earning $7.5MM this season (of which $2.9MM remains). Zobrist is a better hitter than Prado and comes with the bonus of being a switch-hitter. He’s batting .268/.354/.447 and would be an excellent stopgap for Kansas City until Gordon is healthy enough to return to the lineup. Upon his activation, Zobrist would then be an immediate upgrade over Infante. The Athletics, who have already traded Scott Kazmir and could soon trade Tyler Clippard, are believed to be willing to part with Zobrist as well.

The Royals, it seems, will remain active even after picking up Johnny Cueto from the Reds in what has easily been the largest trade of the summer thus far.

JULY 26: The Royals have interest in Marlins infielder Martin Prado, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets. The 31-year-old Prado recently returned from a shoulder injury and is batting .277/.316/.374 in 308 plate appearances in his first season in Miami. He’s making $11MM this season and next, although the Yankees are paying $3MM of that in each season. Morosi notes that the Royals would need to receive cash from the Marlins in the deal. Whether the Marlins would agree to send any is unclear — another recent report indicated that they weren’t interested in dealing Prado at all.

In any case, the Royals have a good player, Mike Moustakas, at third base, where Prado has played most of this year. But Royals second baseman Omar Infante has mostly struggled, so Prado could potentially help at that position. Also, he can help the Royals in the corner outfield while they wait for Alex Gordon to return from the DL — right fielder Alex Rios has hit just .256/.290/.333 this season.


Latest On Mets’ Pursuit Of Offense

At least based on reports, the Mets appear to be one of the busier teams as we approach the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Here’s the latest, mostly via FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

  • The Mets tried for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, but they believe Colorado isn’t interested in a trade.
  • The Mets have also looked into utilityman Ben Zobrist and reliever Tyler Clippard of the Athletics, but it appears likely that the Athletics will find better deals for both players, probably in two different trades.
  • New York discussed sending Zack Wheeler to the Reds in a deal for outfielder Jay Bruce, but talks went nowhere. Andy Martino and Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reported yesterday that the Mets had discussed potential Wheeler deals with multiple clubs.
  • The Mets and Brewers have had talks regarding Gerardo Parra, although it appears that there’s enough interest in Parra that the Brewers’ price has increased. That’s consistent with a tweet this afternoon from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, who wrote that the Brewers have had lots of interest in Parra and will have their choice of various offers.
  • The Mets are also interested in Yoenis Cespedes of the Tigers, but so far, they have nothing to show for it, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets.

Adding Ben Zobrist A “Long Shot” For Mets

TODAY: Acquiring Zobrist is a “long shot” for the Mets, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports on Twitter.

YESTERDAY: There are no active talks between the Athletics and Mets regarding utilityman Ben Zobrist, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. A prior report suggested that talks had reached the stage of discussing prospects, but Rosenthal’s report indicates that any such conversations have been put on the back burner.

All said, it’s unclear whether New York will be a serious participant in the lively Zobrist market. He makes a great deal of sense for their club, in particular, given his relatively low salary, high on-base bat, and capability of playing both the corner outfield as well as second and third.

But some reports have suggested that the team is headed more towards a less impactful upgrade, with Zobrist (like other premium targets) carrying a steep price tag. New York is said to be willing to move some of its better-regarded position prospects, but is uninterested in parting with outfielder Michael Conforto and shortstop Amed Rosario.


East Notes: Mets, Zobrist, Smoker, Jays, Papelbon, Red Sox, Smyly

Here’s the latest out of baseball’s eastern divisions:

  • New York remains in contact with the Athletics on the versatile Ben Zobrist, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. The fit is obvious, and the teams have long said to be in contact, but Ackert says that things have progressed to the point that Oakland has made a specific prospect ask. Nevertheless, no deal is imminent, per the report.
  • The Mets are loath to part with outfielder Michael Conforto or shortstop Amed Rosario to add a bat, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears (Twitter link), echoing a recent report. But the team is still certainly after a hitter, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets that Michael Cuddyer‘s injury situation has led to a “seismic[] shift[]” in the ballclub’s deadline approach. We had heard earlier in the summer that the team was interested in offense even before Cuddyer’s knee troubles worsened, but at the time the focus seemed more on the infield.
  • Lefty Josh Smoker has opened eyes in the Mets organization, Mike Puma of the New York Post notes on Twitter. The 26-year-old was a first-round pick of the Nationals, but never gained much traction. Now, he’s said to be bringing big heat at Double-A and could be a candidate to see time in the New York pen.
  • The Blue Jays are primarily focused on adding a starter and are not presently discussing reliever Jonathan Papelbon with the Phillies, Heyman adds on Twitter. It could be that Toronto is allowing the development of its rotation plans drive the bus on whether (and how) it acts on the relief market.
  • The Red Sox have already made some moves focused on giving MLB time to younger players, notes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, who argues that Boston ought to do more of the same the rest of the way. One forward-looking deadline move, says Lauber, would be to resume pursuit of Cole Hamels, who per the report would not be inclined to trigger his no-trade clause just because an acquiring team is not in contention.
  • Rays lefty Drew Smyly is making good on reports indicating that he’d try to throw again, as Josh Vitale of the Charlotte Sun reports (Twitter links). After emerging from a 40-pitch live BP feeling well, Smyly says he’s hopeful of beginning a rehab stint soon. It remains to be seen how long he’ll take to work back to the big leagues, particularly with Tampa Bay likely to exercise quite a bit of caution with an important asset.

Heyman On Cueto, Uribe, Wilson, Brewers, Niese, Pirates, Gallardo

In his latest notes column, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com addressed a number of interesting deadline issues, starting with Reds starter Johnny Cueto. There have been suggestions over concern among buyers with the health of the star righty, but Heyman cites one scout from a team with interest who tells him that Cueto “looks fine.” As far as interest, Heyman pegs the Blue Jays, Royals, Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros as “the most likely and logical landing spots.”

Here are some other highlights from an info-packed piece (which you’ll want to read in full for even more notes):

  • The Braves are shopping the recently-acquired Juan Uribe, says Heyman, with the asking price of a “mid-range prospect” and full unloading of the approximately $3MM left on Uribe’s deal. Atlanta has had communications with at least the Mets, per the repor.
  • While the Orioles had been looking at adding a starter, Heyman reports that the team now may instead be prioritizing bats. Though the report doesn’t specify a position, we’ve heard in the past that Baltimore had interest in adding to its corner outfield mix.
  • Heyman writes that it’ll be interesting to see if Angels lefty C.J. Wilson becomes “even more available” now that Jerry Dipoto has resigned as the general manager. Per Heyman, Wilson was close with Dipoto, and the Wilson signing (five years, $77.5MM) was the one significant free agent pickup that Dipoto was actually responsible for. Angels owner Arte Moreno was behind the Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings, as many other reports have indicated over the years.
  • The Brewers are officially open for business and “may be considering a rather big sale,” one competing team exec tells Heyman. Interest in Jean Segura is down due to his poor play since an early 2013 breakout, but Gerardo Parra‘s big year has lots of clubs asking about him. Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Francisco Rodriguez are drawing interest, and the Brewers are open to packaging some of those players to improve the return.
  • The Jon Niese saga continues, as Heyman hears that the lefty now doesn’t seem particularly available, with one Mets person telling Heyman that Niese never really was. In other Mets news, Heyman hears that the team floated the idea of a Rafael Montero-for-Ben Zobrist swap when Montero was still healthy, but Montero, of course, has since been injured. The Mets have also talked about Uribe, but there are other names higher on their list.
  • While some have connected the Pirates to Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur, the Bucs might be aiming a bit higher, looking at Marlon Byrd of the Reds and Aramis Ramirez of the Brewers — both former Pirates. Heyman lists Ben Zobrist as a target for the Bucs as well. Earlier today the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bill Brink linked Pittsburgh to Zobrist, Cliff Pennington and Clint Barmes.
  • Yovani Gallardo could hit the trade market if the Rangers end up selling short-term pieces, and he’s not interested in springing for an early extension with his hometown team. Agent Bobby Witt has apparently told the Rangers that Gallardo is looking forward to testing the free agent market.