Ben Zobrist deciding between Mets and Cubs

Ben Zobrist


BaronThe Mets and Nationals have been viewed as finalists to land Ben Zobrist in free agency this winter, and he is said to be mulling a decision which could come in the next couple of days.

The Giants and Dodgers have reportedly been in the mix to sign Zobrist as well.

But he Mets seem optimistic they will be able to land Zobrist, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that Zobrist currently has a four year, $80 million offer on the table, but that the Mets are still perceived as the favorites to sign him.

However, Joel Sherman of the New York Post says that offer is not from the Mets, who are doubting the validity of that report.

Zobrist would be a tremendous addition to this team, but if that’s accurate, it should be well above the Mets comfort zone in a possible deal for him.

It’s possible this could be an effort to drive up his price tag, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was told there is, “no way” Zobrist has an $80 million offer on the table.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote on Tuesday the expectation is Zobrist will sign for four years and a little less than $60 million.

According to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, Zobrist has “at least” one, four-year contract offer right now, and could decide on his destination within several hours.

Meanwhile, the Cubs appear to be re-emerging as a suitor for Zobrist, as Rosenthal says they are involved in the sweepstakes to land his services.

However, Rosenthal says the Cubs need to get other things done in order for Zobrist to be a fit, but he is currently deciding between the Mets and Cubs, and the Nationals seem to be on the periphery.

The Cubs have Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Starlin Castro on their infield already. So unless they want Kyle Schwarber to catch full-time so they can put Zobrist in left field – a position he doesn’t find desirable right now – then it’s hard to envision a fit.

Unless they move one of their infielders, of course, and Rosenthal is reporting the Cubs are trying to trade Castro to the Yankees, which would open up a spot on the infield for Zobrist.

Even so, Zobrist would still create a situation where there is excess on their infield, so the Cubs might still have to move another infielder to make this work.

Of course, there is Zobrist’s relationship with Maddon from their days with the Rays, and that cannot be overlooked in this situation.

They have reportedly been in discussions with the Rays and Cubs in deals involving Baez.

The Mets front office entertained Zobrist and his family in New York last week, giving him a tour of the stadium and surrounding suburbs as well as having dinner with him before he departed for San Francisco to visit the Giants, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

The Mets met again with Zobrist’s agents in Nashville on Monday.

Zobrist has told his suitors he wants to have a primary position and not move around on a daily basis. Assistant GM John Ricco said on Monday the club has assured Zobrist that if he signs with the Mets, second base – which is his preference – would be his primary position.

“He mentioned to us, at this stage, although he’s versatile, it’s easier to have a place to go on a semi-regular basis and then move around,” Ricco explained on Monday.

BEN ZOBRIST

The Mets remain the most logical landing spot for Zobrist, considering they can offer him his preferred position right now. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said on Monday they view Zobrist as a second baseman, but with Yunel Escobar, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon currently in the fold, its not as simple as he claims.

The Giants, meanwhile, reportedly want Zobrist to be their primary left fielder, and given their proximity to his home in Tennessee plus a less desirable playing situation, that might take the Giants out of the race for his services.

And the Dodgers are apparently no longer in the running to sign Zobrist, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation.

The Mets have a three-year proposal in place for Zobrist, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. However, multiple reports suggest Zobrist is looking for a four-year deal, and his suitors know that could be the kicker in landing him.

There’s the issue of Zobrist’s age, and the risk associated with guaranteeing four years to a player entering his age-35 season, which is presumably why the Mets were originally reluctant to give Zobrist a four-year deal.

2015 Winter MeetingsBut if the Mets intend to win right now, it may be a risk the Mets have to take with Zobrist, and deal with the consequences of the long side of such a contract.

He is not tied to draft compensation, as he was ineligible to receive a qualifying offer after being dealt to the Royals by the A’s mid-year.

Previously, the Mets hadn’t seemed inclined to give Zobrist a four-year deal, according to multiple reports. But Ricco has said the Mets are prepared to meet Zobrist’s demands, as they feel comfortable with how he will age despite entering his age-35 season in 2015. So the Mets are prepared to negotiate the fourth year for Zobrist if signs point to Zobrist preferring the Mets, Sherman says.

“A lot of what we talked about with him was his workout regimen, his diet,” Ricco said. “I think this guy is going to give himself a chance to play at a high level as long as possible.

Sherman says the Mets are hopeful a deal could be agreed to on Tuesday.  Zobrist is talking with his family today and could come to a decision by Tuesday night, his agents told Kristie Ackert of the Daily News on Tuesday.

Zobrist hit .276/.359/.450 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI in 126 games with the A’s and Royals in 2015. He underwent April knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Original Post: December 8, 10:11 am
Updated: 2:00 pm, 2:43 pm, 5:33 pm, 5:53 pm, 6:44 pm

Ben Zobrist at point of making decision; Mets, Nationals favorites

Ben Zobrist


Rich MacLeodAnother day, another story as the Ben Zobrist sweepstakes continues.

After visiting with the Mets earlier this week in Connecticut and reportedly scheduled to visit with the Nationals at some point over the Winter Meetings, Zobrist met with the Giants on Sunday, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, as well as the Dodgers, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

While this situation could potentially play out until the end of the week, Zobrist is at a point of making his decision, Marc Topkin of the Tamba Bay Times reports.

According to Topkin, Zobrist has undergone very thorough research and could be ready to decide on his destination.

But there isn’t a natural fit for Zobrist with the Dodgers, which seems to have narrowed the field down to the Mets Giants and Nationals, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and Rosenthal said on MLB Network on Monday the Mets and Nationals must be considered the favorites to land the 34-year-old super-utility player.

While the Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants and Braves have all been linked to the versatile infielder in the past couple weeks, the Mets and Nationals are both located closer to Zobrist’s home in Nashville, and Heyman believes one of the Mets, Nationals, Giants or Dodgers will land Zobrist on a four-year deal.

2015 Winter MeetingsEarlier on Sunday, it was reported by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman that the Mets were willing to go to four years in a potential contract for Zobrist, but there are other teams willing to do the same.

Among those teams are the Nationals, Giants and Dodgers according to Heyman.

While it is unknown where he is leaning, multiple reports indicate that it is likely that Zobrist could make his decision by the end of the Winter Meetings.

And according to John Harper of the Daily News, Zobrist liked New York when he visited with the Mets last week, and would be very comfortable signing with the Mets after touring Citi Field and the metropolitan area.

Zobrist reportedly prefers to play second base primarily, which could eliminate the Giants from contention for the free agent as they would sign him to play left field.

If that’s the case, can Washington guarantee Zobrist a mostly permanent spot at second base?

The Mets certainly can, and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo insists they see Zobrist as a second baseman, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. 

But it really is not that simple.

The Nationals have Anthony Rendon, Yunel Escobar, and Trea Turner along with Ryan Zimmerman around the infield today. Assuming Turner makes the team out of camp, he appears to be Washington’s shortstop. Right now, Rendon looks to be at second base with Escobar at third base..

Escobar is reportedly being shopped this winter. He is not a good defensive player, but he’s a body on the rosterand possibly a difficult one to move in trade. He could go to the bench as a utility infielder if they can’t move him, which would create room for Zobrist as they could move Rendon to third. But that could create an uncomfortable situation in general.

No matter what, a deal appears unlikely to be finalized before Thursday, tweets Kristie Ackert of the Daily News, as Zobrist still needs to visit again with the Nationals, which will take place tomorrow in Nashville.

Zobrist is on the verge of making a decision, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.


To read the latest news on Ben Zobrist in free agency, click here.

Original post: December 6, 11:25 pm
Updated: December 7, 8:35 am, 11:20 am, 12:10 pm, 3:15 pm, 3:59 pm, 4:35 pm

Mets willing to offer 4 years to Ben Zobrist, who could decide this week

Ben Zobrist 1 slice


Baron

The Mets have made it abundantly clear that free agent super-utility player Ben Zobrist is their top free agent target this winter.

Zobrist met with the Mets last Wednesday and took a tour of Citi Field as well as suburban neighborhoods around the metropolitan area.

And assistant GM John Ricco said the Mets intend to meet with Zobrist’s agents again during the Winter Meetings in Nashville this week.

“We’ve had conversations with his guys, and we’ll definitely be meeting with them,” he explained.

Ricco made it clear about how the Mets feel about Zobrist and what he could bring to the Mets if he were to sign with them.

“We’ve met with Ben. It’s pretty obvious we think he’s a fit,” Ricco said on Sunday.

Ricco said Zobrist could decide on his new team by the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday.

“Could it get done by the end of these meetings? I think yes,” Ricco said. “That’s really in his hands, and I don’t want to speak for him. We think it might happen here.”

2015 Winter MeetingsCurrently, the Mets, Nationals, Dodgers and Giants all appear to be in the hunt for Zobrist, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, with the Royals appearing to be priced out, the Braves and Angels on the fringes, and the Cubs and Cardinals not being able to guarantee as many at-bats for the super-utility free agent.

The demand for Zobrist has escalated, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports says Zobrist can already command a four-year deal which could go north of $60 million, and Rosenthal says a team guaranteeing the fourth year could be the deciding factor for him. 

Previously, the Mets hadn’t seemed inclined to give Zobrist a four-year deal, according to multiple reports. But Marc Carig of Newsday said last week the Mets are indeed willing to offer a fourth year if that’s what it takes to get a deal done.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports confirmed the Mets would be willing to offer Zobrist a fourth guaranteed year, but warned other teams are also willing to offer the 34-year-old a four-year deal as well.

There’s the issue of Zobrist’s age, and the risk associated with guaranteeing four years to a player entering his age-35 season, which is presumably why the Mets were originally reluctant to give Zobrist a four-year deal.

But if the Mets intend to win right now, it may be a risk the Mets have to take with Zobrist, and deal with the consequences of the long side of such a contract.

He is not tied to draft compensation, as he was ineligible to receive a qualifying offer after being dealt to the Royals by the A’s mid-year.

Zobrist hit .276/.359/.450 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI in 126 games with the A’s and Royals in 2015. He underwent April knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Mets have 3 primary needs to fill ahead of the Winter Meetings

Gaylord Entertainment Marriott


BaronIts only been five weeks since the last time the Mets played a baseball game, but the club has spent those five weeks looking for ways to get over the top of the mountain and win the 2016 World Series, exactly 30 years after their last championship.

They will begin to do so at the Winter Meetings which technically begin tomorrow morning at the at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Mets are already projected to have a $92-95 million in payroll for 2016 with players currently under contract, projected salaries through arbitration, and players earning the league minimum. That’s all without adding new talent.

And the Mets need to add and replenish some of the talent lost on the big league roster.

2015 Winter MeetingsYoenis Cespedes, Jerry Blevins, Eric O’Flaherty, Bartolo Colon, Bobby Parnell, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Tyler Clippard, and Daniel Murphy are all free agents.

The Mets added OF Brandon Nimmo, RHP Seth Lugo, and RHP Robert Gsellman to the 40-man roster in late November to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, which takes place Thursday morning at the Winter Meetings. They did not protect Matt Bowman or Wuilmer Becerra, so they could conceivably taken in the Rule 5 draft by other teams.

The 40-man roster currently stands at 39.

The Mets have already signed RHP Jim Henderson, RHP Stolmy Pimentel and infielder Ty Kelly to minor league contracts, but have yet to sign anyone to a Major League deal this winter.

That could change this week, as team insiders insist they will be active in their attempt to fortify the roster this week in Nashville.

DePodesta Ricciardi Ricco WilponHowever, the front office will be missing a key presence to their contingent in Nashville this week, as Sandy Alderson will stay in New York as he undergoes treatment for cancer.

Instead, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon will join assistant GM John Ricco, manager Terry Collins, Vice President, Player Development & Amateur Scouting Paul DePodesta, and special assistant JP Ricciardi as the continent for the Mets at the Winter Meetings.

The Mets have identified three primary needs as they head to the Winter Meetings, with hopes their activity can lead to solutions as they look ahead to Spring Training.

Their goal is to lengthen their lineup by improving their contact rate, reducing their strikeouts, and lengthening their lineup with a greater ability to get on-base.

They also want to create a lockdown formula in their bullpen, and improve their overall defense behind their championship-caliber starting pitching, the latter they hope will make them more efficient and lengthen their outings.

Here’s a look at how the Mets hope to reach those goals this winter… Continue reading

Mets keeping tabs on Daniel Murphy, in case they don’t sign Ben Zobrist

Herrera Murphy Zobrist


Baron

The Mets have made it quite clear their top free agent target is Ben Zobrist this winter.

But the Mets can’t rule out the possibility of Zobrist signing elsewhere, especially at least ten teams interested in his services and the possibility he could command a contract outside of the Mets comfort zone in terms of years.

So, the Mets have a couple of contingencies to Zobrist, in the event he chooses to sign with another club.

Assistant GM John Ricco said on Friday the Mets have been in contact with the agents for Daniel Murphy, and could consider exploring a new contract with him in the event they are unable to procure Zobrist’s services next season.

Ricco has also said previously they’d be comfortable having Dilson Herrera as their Opening Day second baseman next season if they are unable to sign any of their free agent targets this winter.

The Mets could also consider signing or trading for a shortstop if they are not able to acquire a second baseman.

Whatever the Mets end up with, Ricco insists the club has the ability to escalate their payroll to accommodate the roster, if needed. Continue reading