By: Joe Messineo

Why the Nationals and Mets Want Ben Zobrist


Last year, the Washington Nationals failed to live up to preseason expectations. The team that was hailed as a World Series favorite looked dismal on the field, while the young surging Mets beat them to the top of the National League East and eventually went on to win the National League Pennant.

In 2016, the Nationals and the Mets are sure to battle for the NL East once more. But a key part of their battle won’t happen on the field in 2016. Instead, it’s happening in war rooms and player agent meetings right now. Both the Mets and the Nationals are considered frontrunners to sign Ben Zobrist, one of the most coveted free agents in baseball. Why is he so important to both teams?

Why Everyone Wants Zobrist

Ben Zobrist is a unique free agent not because of his skill (which is substantial, but not world-class) but because of his versatility. Ben Zobrist is capable of fitting in at multiple places in the lineup and on the field, which is why he looks like a good fit for a disproportionate number of teams.

Zobrist played second base for the World Champion Kansas City Royals last year, but that’s not the only infield position he can handle. Zobrist has also played at shortstop for much of his career, and he can likely work as a fill-in at other positions as well. On top of that, Zobrist can play in the outfield. At all of these positions, Zobrist plays excellent defense.

The field isn’t the only place where Zobrist is versatile. He can also hit from both sides of the plate, making him easy to move around in the lineup or platoon with players that have bad lefty/righty splits. Zobrist is a good contact hitter with solid all-around numbers.

Why Zobrist Fits With the Mets

Just about every team in the league could use at least one of Zobrist’s skills. The Mets, however, could use every single one of them.

First, the infield: the Mets expect to lose last year’s second baseman, Daniel Murphy, to free agency. They’re looking for an upgrade defensively – defense isn’t Murphy’s strong suit – and they’d love to have a guy that could back up injury-prone veteran 3B David Wright. Even if Zobrist doesn’t fit at third, he could handle second or shortstop to free up Mets SS Wilmer Flores, who can play third.

The Mets need Zobrist’s outfield skills, too. They’re planning to let slugging OF Yoenis Cespedes walk, and they’d like to get someone to platoon with righty-hitting CF Juan Lagares (Zobrist has played mostly right field when in the outfield, but the Mets could shuffle outfielders or ask him to try out center). Zobrist’s ability to hit from the left side makes him an ideal solution here.

Why Zobrist Fits With the Nationals

Like the Mets, the Nationals would like to put Zobrist in spots that their free agents are vacating. The Nationals will likely lose OF Denard Span and SS Ian Desmond, so just like the Mets, they’ll need help in the outfield and in the middle infield.

Zobrist would also, of course, help at the plate. As a contact hitter with a high walk rate, Zobrist would be able to get on base so that Bryce Harper, who hit an incredible 42 home runs last season.
The Nationals are in win-now mode, and unlike the Mets, they’re probably at the end of their championship window instead of the beginning. Signing Zobrist could help keep this team competitive for one or two more big runs.

About Joe Messineo

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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