With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, the trade market should grow continuously more active. We’ve already seen a few big names traded – Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and Huston Street for instance – and it seems like another big name that may be changing teams is the two-time All-Star Ben Zobrist.
Ben Zobrist is one of the biggest names available on the trade market this summer. A career .263 hitter who averages 18 home runs, 73 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases would be a nice addition to any lineup.
The problem is that Zobrist is having one of the worst seasons of his career; his average has stayed consistent (currently at .267), but he’s really suffering in other areas – he’s on pace for just 11 homers, 42 RBIs, and 8 steals.
From a fantasy baseball perspective, Zobrist’s average draft position in ESPN Fantasy Baseball leagues was 62.1; unfortunately, he hasn’t returned the value for the spot in which he was picked. He is currently ranked as the 18th second baseman, 14th shortstop, 56th outfielder, and 213th overall.
Despite his struggles, teams are still intrigued. It’s not just the fact that Zobrist is a good hitter that draws trade interest, it’s that he is extremely versatile in the field – he can play either middle infield position as well as both corner outfield spots.
With the Rays’ record standing at 46-53 (putting them seven games out of the second wild card spot and eight and a half games behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles) it seems more likely than not that Zobrist will be getting shipped out.
The most likely destination for Zobrist seems to be the Seattle Mariners where he would play either shortstop or in the outfield. The Rays and Mariners have been in continuous discussions about Zobrist, but it is unclear whether the Mariners are willing to part with some of their young talented pitching prospects – Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are likely to be involved.
If Zobrist is dealt before the trade deadline on July 31, it will be interesting to see if he can recover from his first half struggles. Looking at his past statistics, Zobrist isn’t clearly defined as being a good first or second half hitter; he stays pretty consistent before and after the All-Star break.
For instance, his career first half batting line is .265/.361/.438 and he hits a long ball every 33.24 at bats. In the second half, Zobrist’s batting line slips to .260/.347/.426 while hitting a homer every 31.56 at bats.
If Zobrist is traded to the Mariners, I really don’t see his fantasy stock improving; he’d be getting sent to a weaker offensive team. As of July 19, the Tampa Bay Rays, as a team, rank 18th in runs scored, 14th in batting average, 7th in on base percentage, and 18th in slugging percentage. The Seattle Mariners are ranked worse in all of those categories – 21st, 24th, 27th, and 24th respectively.
Another factor that leads me to believe that Zobrist’s numbers wouldn’t improve in Seattle is the ballpark. According to ESPN’s Park Factors, the Tampa Bay Rays’ home, Tropicana Field is the 12th most hitter friendly park in baseball; Safeco Field, home to the Seattle Mariners, is 27th.
For all those fantasy baseball owner’s who find themselves holding on to Ben Zobrist, I would recommend selling him before their fantasy baseball league’s trade deadline passes. Sell him for a decent price, he may bring more value than his numbers suggest due to name recognition and his eligibility at multiple positions.
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