The most desired free agent of the offseason, Ben Zobrist, has a team. He signed with the Chicago Cubs, which enabled the New York Yankees to get Starlin Castro off of them via trade, while sending Adam Warren in return.
As Cubs president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein said: We could not have made this signing without this trade and would not have made this trade without this signing. This was an opportunity to essentially trade Starlin for Ben Zobrist and Adam Warren. That made a lot of sense for us.
The Yankees have been after Castro, a second baseman who can also play shortstop and third base, since last season, but couldn’t get him via trade before the deadline during the 2015 season. The 25-year old is a three-time All-Star, and batted a .265 with 11 home runs last season, producing his worst career hitting stats. If that’s an off-year for him, the Yankees got something good. He’s owed just under $40 million for the next four seasons, and there’s a $16 million team option for 2020.
In return, the Cubs get Adam Warren, the 28-year old who started for the Yankees 17 times last season. He finished with a 7-7 record and a 3.29 ERA. Epstein described him as a quality starting pitcher, while the Yankees were willing to give him up in order to find a second baseman and maybe end their woes against left handed pitchers with the right handed Castro.
But the gem in all of this is Ben Zobrist, who had offers waiting from pretty much every team in the league. He signed a frontloaded four-year, $56 million deal with the Cubs, which includes a no-trade clause for the first three years. He will receive a $2 million signing bonus up front, then will be paid $10 million in salary during the 2016 season. He will make $16 million, $16 million and $12 million the final three years of the deal.
Zobrist won the World Series with the Kansas City Royals, and the 34-year old had about every team thinking about winning next season trying to sign him, with different positions in mind for different teams. Zobrist probably could have landed a bigger deal maybe with the San Francisco Giants, but didn’t want to be stuck in left field. He his .284 with 7 home runs for the Royals last season and was fantastic in the playoffs, batting .303 with two home runs. He’s a two-time All-Star, last time going to the big game in 2013.