Was Zobrist a Fit for the Indians?


They say that hindsight is 20/20 and we have seen a lot of deals this winter that could make you say “well, if it only cost them that much, why didn’t they try harder?”, and today, we may have had another example of that. When the Oakland A’s acquired Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar for John Jaso and two minor leaguers, it would be easy to question whether the Indians could have made the same deal by including Jose Ramirez and a mid-level prospect. After all, the prize prospect in the deal, Daniel Robertson, is 20 years old and didn’t seem like a superstar until he reached the California League, where numbers shoot up quicker than gas prices on a holiday weekend. However, would the deal have been useful for the Indians, had they made a strong push for the two Rays players, or even just Zobrist?

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Zobrist, who is due $7.5 million before reaching free agency after the 2015 season, is highly thought of due to his versatility (he has played every position but pitcher and catcher in MLB) and his production (he has a .364 OBP, 123 OPS+, 35.5 WAR since 2009, and he is a switch-hitter). Zobrist allows a team to mix and match their roster and keep others fresh, while providing athleticism and production at fielding positions, as well as positions in the batting order (he has over 500 plate appearances at each spot 1st through 5th).

Sep 24, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Jose Ramirez (11) throws out Kansas City Royals shortstop

Alcides Escobar

(not pictured) in the first inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Indians may not have a need at second base with Jason Kipnis around, but Zobrist could have been a tremendous one-year option at shortstop, holding the spot for Francisco Lindor. While his defense may not have been the most beautiful thing in the world at that position over 162 games, he is still a viable option there. You could make the argument that he is a more useful addition in a trade than the recently acquired Brandon Moss, who added to the 1B/DH gluttony that the Tribe already had in place with Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher in the majors and Jesus Aguilar in the minors, as it doesn’t seem like Moss is a true option in right after making all of 57 starts there since the start of the 2012 season, but maybe I’m wrong on that one.

Still, if you put Zobrist on the roster and took Moss and Jose Ramirez off of it, are the Indians better?

Billy Beane has his finger over the trade button at all times, so the dream of Ben Zobrist on the Indians can’t be totally thrown out this winter, but he looks like the perfect player for how the A’s do things, and he would have been the same type of player for the Indians.

There could be someone out there who says that Jose Ramirez is worth more to the Indians than what Ben Zobrist would have been, and those someones are wrong. In hindsight, the Indians, along with 27 other teams, missed on improving their team today by not trading for Ben Zobrist.