By: Matt Williams

The Real Truth About Ben Zobrist

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It’s that time of year again. Jingle Bells, Sleigh Rides, and Snowmen. It must be…the Winter Meetings! It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The time of year when every baseball fan thinks to themselves, if we do a, b, and c… we have a chance next season! The same can be said for the New York Mets, who found themselves falling short of their first World Series win since 1986 this past November. Now it is time to sure up those holes.

Ben Zobrist, the second basemen on the other side of the field in the World Series was solid. There was nothing flashy about his performance, just consistent and timely hitting. This seems like something the Mets want desperately, consistency. But after a down year at age 35, why are Mets so enamored? You can expect a decent batting average between .270-.275 with modest pop, but nothing that sets him apart. Zobrist walks a lot, which is true. Zobrist had a 11.6 BB% in 2015 compared to Murphys’ 5.8%. But, most fans want him for his “defense”. Fans assume Zobrist is easily a better defender than Daniel Murphy right? No, not necessarily. All advanced metrics suggest a lifelong 2B in Zobrist was inferior to Murphy is both UZR and Def WAR (Zobrist -6.7/-5.7 while Murphy was -1.3/-.4) in 2015. While Zobrist holds a steady edge defensively in his consistent career, he seems to be in decline the last 3 years. Zobrist in fact, does not even compare favorably to Wilmer Flores defensively who controls a 2/2.5 in those defensive metrics in 2015. I am not stating who is better or worse, I am merely stating that using Zobrist defense as a “selling point” at this stage holds little merit.

In the World Series this year, the magic of Daniel Murphy seemed to run out. It had to, no? His performance in the NLDS and NLCS was legendary and will not be duplicated anytime soon. His approach at the plate in the last quarter of the season has to have you wonder though. Is this the new Daniel Murphy? No it’s not, that would be impossible. But for those who are paying attention, he was not the same player. Murphy made adjustments, and his new aggressive approach made him dangerous. At age 31 is Murphy just now realizing his potential? It has happened before at this late age. With a WAR of 2.5 compared to the 2.1 of Zobrist, why not keep the younger fan favorite in Murphy. Zobrist does not compare favorably to Murphy, they are actually quite even in most categories. Murphy however, would come at a cheaper cost.

Do you know someone Zobrist compares evenly to? Neil Walker. They are both below average fielders at this point(as are all the Mets options it seems), but have very similar recent defensive metrics as well as Wins Above Replacement. Yes, Walker strikes out a ton, something the Mets do not need more of. But, he offers cheap 15-plus homer pop with a .270 average. Most importantly he will also not cost 4 years, and give you a steady gap to Dilson Herrera. You can likely get Walker for Jonathan Niese, a player the Pirates would certainly make use of.

There are, of course, other options. Dilson Herrera for one. He looks overmatched in the big leagues, but might be worth an extended look. I’m sure he will get one at some point either through injury or design. Brandon Phillips is another option. Unlikely considering the money he is due, but he could be had for close to no prospects. Phillips would be a fine short term solution, and one of the few options with above average defense at 2B.

So, why the fascination with Ben Zobrist? He’s solid, and would be a steady breath of fresh air for the Mets. But is he worth the contract at his age? Why not just stick with Flores/Dilson and keep our money? Or trade Neise and get a short term solution in Walker or Phillips? Or better yet resign legendary Met Daniel Murphy. What do you think? Comment below! #ImWith28 though.

 

Update 12/7/15 7:36pm: It looks imminent that Zobrist will be signing with the Mets, barring a surprise. Let’s hope he brings the stability the Mets are hoping for.

Update 12/8/15 6:52pm: That surprise we talked about has come in the form of the Cubs. Let’s see how this shakes out….

Update 12/8/15 7:36pm: Ken Rosenthal reports Zobrist has signed with the Cubs. Do not worry Mets fans, this is a blessing in disguise. On to the next thing…

About Matt Williams

Want to talk Mets? Follow me @Apac1542

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4 Comments

  1. paul mcisaac

    December 7, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I agree that zobrist is not the best fit. the mets basically have one bullet(and a few rocks to throw) in free agency and it shouldnt be zobrist especially at his age.what will he produce at 38 yrs .let him go.

  2. Matt Williams

    December 7, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    I don’t doubt Zobrist would be consistent and welcome addition to the team. But when you look at the big picture it doesn’t seem like a perfect fit.

    • SLPerrone

      December 7, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      I agree Paul, the Mets are not the Yankees who can afford to throw money and four year contracts at aging players and absorb the cost without breaking a sweat. We need to spend money wisely. If it were a two year deal, I say take the deal, but four for the kind of money Zobrist is asking for is too much risk.

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