Off and on over the past year or so, with the Brewers struggling to find production off their bench, there have been opinions by the team's fanbase that Milwaukee should inquire about Rays super-utility player Ben Zobrist. However, there was little indication that he was actually made actively available by Tampa Bay.
With the Rays acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera on Tuesday, however, Zobrist is highly likely to be dealt, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman doesn't hint about possible trade partners, saying instead that he could go 'anywhere'. Suggestions around the league say that the Nationals may be the best fit.
But could the Brewers work their way into talks and suddenly turn their bench into a sudden strength? Almost certainly not, though it is fun to think about.
Two factors make Zobrist an intriguing player for the Brewers -- and any other team -- to consider: His strong defense at nearly every position and a solid bat from both sides of the plate. Over his career, he has hit for a .264/.354/.429 line, has 20+ home run power, and can steal a base or two. He's the perfect definition of a utility player in that he can do basically everything. On days he's not in the lineup, he probably mans a concession stand.
Another nice aspect for the Brewers is the fact that he is very good against left-handed pitching (.285/.363/.447 over his career, .340/.399/.474 in 2014) and thus would serve as the perfect platoon partner for Scooter Gennett. Zobrist could also probably spell the 36-year-old Aramis Ramirez and act as insurance for Jean Segura if his bat doesn't pick up. The Brewers could also be spared needing a fifth outfielder (Zobrist has 404 games in the outfield, including 34 in center) thus affording the organization additional flexibility on how to construct their roster.
Sound great? Every other team is bound to think so, too. After all, he has averaged 6.2 rWAR per year since 2009. He'll be valued as a strong starting player by most trade partners, though he'd be a utility guy for the Brewers. He could be a well-used utility guy, but that's not a starting role. As such, other teams would almost certainly be willing to pay more than the Brewers should for Zobrist.
What would you reasonably think is an acceptable deal for the Brewers in a Zobrist trade? Giving up Jimmy Nelson? Tyrone Taylor? Clint Coulter? It would be highly unsurprising if one of those players would need to be traded for Zobrist. The Rays aren't having their hand forced here, they'll want a good return for a great player.
Another factor that is not in the Brewers' favor: Zobrist is owed $7.5 million in 2015. It's not a long-term commitment, but there have already been a fair share of rumors that the Brewers are open to trading Gerardo Parra in part to relieve his salary load. Parra is eligible for arbitration after making $4.85 million in 2014 and is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $6.4 million next year. The Brewers are already probably near the top of their payroll limit, they likely won't want to bring on another fairly large commitment.
So, Zobrist would be great. He would turn the Brewers from having a mediocre bench to having a great one. That's a luxury that the Brewers won't be able to afford, however, both in salary and player assets. The Rays will probably trade their super-utility man, but it will be another team that will benefit.