For all the chatter and excitement about the San Francisco Giants getting a power hitter for left field, the team may address the opening with a valuable baseball player.
The Giants are in a position to really gain on their flexibility by adding a player like Ben Zobrist. Not only does it fill a need in the immediate future, but it also allows the team the ability to give some rest to other positions throughout the year.
Zobrist is a free agent who is looking for a 4-year deal which won’t hurt the wallet as much as Yoenis Cespedes or Jason Heyward. Not to say they wouldn’t be nice, but their offensive value would take a hit playing at AT&T Park.
Zobrist looks like he will be the first to sign, as it has been reported that he will choose his destination within the next 48 hours, per Jon Morosi.
At first, he would be primarily used in left field, which is a good thing considering the bigger injury risk while turning double plays. But in the future, he could transition easily, as he has done most of his career.
With a line drive approach, and a focus on going back up the middle, a hitter can actually raise their batting average at AT&T. If signed, Zobrist could take a page out of Steve Finley’s book of triples that he wrote back in 2006. (Finley became the master of hitting the ball into “triples alley” between right and center while with the Giants that year.)
That seems to be the common theme in being successful at AT&T Park. “Just don’t look past the grass behind the infield. Hit the ball hard, where it is pitched, and run everything out.” It’s generally the same in most parks, but other fields have dimensions that allow for a hitter to hit it out even when fooled on a pitch.
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Only Barry Bonds could do that here. And he is now teaching the Miami Marlins his tricks.
Zobrist, 34, is a player as versatile as they come.
He has a better eye from the right side with a .290 career average, but hits for more power as a lefty with 94 of his 127 career home runs from that side.
If the contract ends up being for four years as has been rumored, the team who gets him will know that, down the line, his skills as a utility player are already present. This adds value at the end of the contract, even if the team gets younger at certain positions. He won’t necessarily block any development, just shift to other positions of need.
He was a champion last year with the Kansas City Royals, having been traded there from the Oakland A’s near the deadline (the Giants were reportedly interested then as well). He hit .276 with 13 home runs combined with the two clubs.
His statistics are remarkably consistent. When projecting a player like this, one could write down his stats at the beginning of the season and be within 5 home runs and a few percentage points away from being exact.
He is a career .265 hitter with a good on-base percentage at .355, and has 2 All-Star appearances to this point. His most played position has been second base at 616 games, but has 481 games played in the outfield. He has a career .992 fielding percentage in the outfield, he would be an upgrade from Nori Aoki for the upcoming season.
If Zobrist were to choose another team, the Giants would still have a few other options to choose from. which means that as a team, they shouldn’t feel like they lost in the negotiations, they just didn’t see the value at the price that he ends up getting.
He isn’t someone you break the bank for, but one that makes a difference on the club in more ways than one. His intangibles make him a complete baseball player, and it is good to see that this type of player is being valued correctly.
Other teams that are reportedly interested in Zobrist are the Mets and the Washington Nationals. Both of those teams are looking at him as a second baseman.
It remains to be seen where the Giants go if they are not able to sign him, but Ben Zobrist has looked good in a Giants uniform several times over the last few years. Maybe this time it won’t have to be photoshopped.