Jon Morosi is on the Royals bandwagon and he writes the Royals may be able to run away with the division if they are able to make an impact trade this summer. He writes a bit about the Jeff Samardzija rumors that popped up yesterday, but adds a new name to the mix -Rays infielder Ben Zobrist.
The Royals may have an easier time meeting the price tag for Zobrist, since the Kansas City farm system is deeper in position players, which is what the Rays are expected to seek.
The Royals do have interest in the switch-hitting Zobrist, according to one major-league source, and he would fit their roster in a number of ways: He can play right field and third base, positions at which Nori Aoki and Mike Moustakas, respectively, have struggled to hit for stretches this year. He's regarded as an excellent teammate, would bring postseason experience to a young clubhouse, and played with Shields in Tampa Bay for many years.
Zobrist is a 33-year old switch hitter known for his versatility and ability to get on base. He has played mostly second base, but is capable of playing all over the infield and outfield. Ideally, the Royals could use him in both right field and at third base, and even use Zobrist to spell Alcides Escobar and Omar Infante (important since Infante has already missed a fair amount of time). The Royals are currently a very thin team, and adding a Zobrist suddenly gives them the depth they'll need for the pennant stretch.
Zobrist is not your Willie Bloomquist-type utility player either, the dude can hit. Ben is a two-time All-Star with a .352 career on-base percentage and has three 20-home run seasons under his belt. This year he is hitting .251/.324/.377 with 5 HR 15 RBI, but he has put up a 110 OPS+ or better in four of the last five seasons, including a line of .275/.354/.402 last year. Three times in his career he has drawn 90 walks or more, a feat not accomplished by a Royals hitter since Kevin Seitzer in 1989.
Zobrist earns $7 million for this year with a $7.5 million club option in 2015 with a $500,000 buyout. He would not add much in future contractual obligations to the club, and can serve as a starting rightfielder next year when the Royals let Nori Aoki go. He is an idea top-of-the-order hitter for this lineup, and can even swipe a base or two. The asking price will be significant, but would not require the massive package that David Price or even Jeff Samardzija would require.
The Royals are said to be nowhere near a deal, but if the Royals were to acquire a player like Zobrist, I think many of us would feel a lot better about our prospects going forward this year.