This afternoon, A’s Second Baseman/Left Fielder/Super-Utilityman Ben Zobrist was traded from the A’s to the Kansas City Royals for pitching prospects Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks. While the price the Royals paid for Zobrist was out of the Cubs’ range, the move hurts the Cubs’ efforts to grab a utility bat to spell someone like Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan depending on performances and matchups. Zobrist, who flourished under Joe Maddon for a long time in Tampa Bay, looked like an ideal candidate to contribute to this team.

But, someone like Zobrist is always going to appeal to pretty much every team in the majors. Who couldn’t use a guy who can play, at minimum, six positions? That guy can find a home on every team.

Potential Zobrist-Type Fits?

But, back to the Cubs and the Trading Deadline. My question is are there any other players on the market who could provide something similar? We know Zobrist is a great player and we’re not going to find someone of his caliber, but maybe someone who’s versatile and also pretty good on offense?

Martin Prado is a name that has popped up in conversations like this. Prado is under a pretty alright contract and has still got a year and a half left on it. But his line of .273/.312/.369 don’t really jump out at you and he’s got a tiny walk rate at 4.5%. Plus, although he has past experience in the outfield, Prado has played primarily Second and Third this year. Just doesn’t seem like the ideal pocketknife, if that’s what we’re looking for.

Another name that occurred to me was the Red Sox’ Brock Holt whose utility skills helped him grab the Sox’ All Star spot over (probably more deserving) teammate Xander Bogaerts. Holt has seen time at every infield and outfield spot already this season. While I’d be pretty surprised to see the Sox attempt to move Holt (he’s also dealing with a knee issue this week), he is the exact type of guy you’d be interested in: hits pretty well and plays everywhere.

Anyone else out there? Well, I’m not sure. It wouldn’t astonish me to see the Cubs target their old friend Emilio Bonifacio from the White Sox, but he’s really struggled this year (a “yikes”-worthy line of .160/.192/.173 with only one steal in 44 games). But chances are, they’ll just stand pat in terms of a utility guy and look into an outfield bench bat instead.

That decision could lead to an interesting – albeit way out of the box – idea. We’ve seen Chris Coghlan jump around the field a little bit so far this season. He’s seen (very minimal) time at First, Second and Third. Of course, Coghlan is not known for his defense in the outfield and you would expect some very rough times in the infield, but you do have to wonder if anyone is thinking, “If we grab another platoon outfielder, maybe we try and help Coghlan morph into our own super-utility guy.” It’s crazy and I’m not endorsing the idea, but it’s something worth wondering.

Lack of Zobrist-Types

But my main question from all of this is why aren’t there more Ben Zobrists? When you see the success of Zobrist or Martin Prado or Brock Holt or Josh Harrison wouldn’t you encourage that kind of versatility in all of your minor leaguers and young players – especially the ones that hit well to begin with? That just makes sense to me and doesn’t seem like too difficult a challenge for players who haven’t fully grown acclimated to only one position.

The Cubs minor league teams seem to be attempting to emulate this, encouraging versatility with Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez. But I still want to see more. A truly fascinating test case is going to be Ian Happ as he moves up the ladder. Where does he play? Where doesn’t he play?

But versatility is the way of the future and the Cubs understand that. Now they just need to find some more guys who fit that bill. My only hope is that the Cubs can harvest these Zobrist-types before other front offices also reach this realization.

Photo by Matthew Emmons – USA Today Sports

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