Longtime utilityman extraordinaire Ben Zobrist may be in his last week with the Cubs, but these won’t necessarily be the final days of his major league career. Zobrist, a pending free agent who will turn 39 next May, believes he’s physically capable of continuing his career in 2020, per Tom Musick of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I feel like I can keep up,” Zobrist said.
However, that’s only one part of the equation, Musick notes, writing that “the mental grind, as well as outside interests and family commitments” all figure to play a role in whether Zobrist will keep going next season. The family aspect seems especially notable in Zobrist’s case, as he has spent most of this season on the restricted list while dealing with a divorce.
Zobrist got off to an uncharacteristically poor start this year before his off-field situation kept him away for most of May and all of June, July and August. Despite the Cubs’ September slide, though, they’ve gotten something resembling vintage Zobrist during his return this month. The switch-hitter has slashed .296/.377/.426 in 61 September plate appearances, which should make for an opportune bounce-back effort if he does take aim at another guaranteed contract over the winter.
As things stand, Zobrist’s on the cusp of wrapping up a four-year, $56MM free-agent payday that has largely worked in the Cubs’ favor. The former Ray, Athletic and Royal has given the Cubs a pair of highly productive campaigns, including a 2016 season in which he played an instrumental role in the franchise’s first World Series title since 1908. Still, it’s undetermined whether the Cubs will make an earnest attempt to bring back the aging Zobrist (or several of their other players) during what looks increasingly likely to be an offseason of notable changes.
Having slashed .263/.356/.321 with almost no power (.058 ISO, one home run) in 160 trips to the plate this year, Zobrist probably won’t be in line for anything better than a cheap one-year deal in his next trip to the market. But Zobrist still has a discerning eye that helps him reach base, evidenced by his almost identical K:BB ratio (21:20), he remains versatile enough to man the keystone and the corner outfield, and he’s a well-respected veteran. With those factors in mind, Zobrist should be able to find a job – whether in Chicago or elsewhere – in the coming months.