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Nats lose out on Zobrist, who signs with Cubs

Dec 8, 2015, 8:18 PM EDT

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NASHVILLE — The Ben Zobrist Sweepstakes finally resolved itself Tuesday night at the Winter Meetings, and though the Nationals didn’t land the highly coveted free agent, they can at least take solace knowing he’s not headed to their biggest division rival.

The Cubs, never considered among the favorites to sign Zobrist, swept in at the last minute and inked the versatile veteran to a 4-year, $56 million contract, a source confirmed to CSNchicago.com. (FoxSports.com was first to report the deal.)

The Nationals, who a source said were willing to give Zobrist four guaranteed years, were in the running for him earlier Tuesday, but the field narrowed to the Cubs and the Mets later in the day. New York had been more aggressive than any other club in pursuit of Zobrist this winter and now is left scrambling to find a starting second baseman (potentially needing to look into re-signing Daniel Murphy).

Zobrist, one of the game’s most fundamentally sound and versatile players, was appealing to the Nationals, but the club wasn’t desperate to acquire him. With Anthony Rendon, Yunel Escobar, Danny Espinosa and prospects Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo already in the fold, they have multiple options around the infield.

That said, the Nationals’ interest in Zobrist was legitimate, and general manager Mike Rizzo met with his representatives multiple times at the Opryland Resort this week.

“We put a nice, hard push to acquire a really good player, and we’ll see what place he chooses to play,” Rizzo said Tuesday afternoon, before Zobrist made his final selection. “But we put a good effort in place, and we think he’s a guy that would help his club.”

In the end, familiarity may have been the deciding factor for Zobrist. Having spent most of his career playing for Joe Maddon with the Rays, the 34-year-old now is reunited with his former manager in Chicago.

  1. Susanfaulkner - Dec 8, 2015 at 8:21 PM

    Are we going to get anyone?! What are they waiting on?

    • infideljack - Dec 8, 2015 at 8:40 PM

      We need someone to replace both Papelbon and Werth when he returns to the DL.
      We may need to rely on Maddox to work with our younger guys and try to sign Heyward.

      • philipd763 - Dec 8, 2015 at 8:49 PM

        I suspect Heyward is way over Rizzo’s budget. Parra more likely if he doesn’t re-sign with Os.

      • Susanfaulkner - Dec 9, 2015 at 9:52 AM

        Replace Papelbon yes but Werth when he returns to the DL? You have a crystal ball? How do you know this?Don’t start with the negativity on Werth or anyone else please.

    • Sonny G 10 - Dec 8, 2015 at 9:08 PM

      They are waiting for something that worth it.

      • Jay Cee Bullock - Dec 8, 2015 at 9:40 PM

        Someone they can afford with the albatross contract and Scherzer’s contract.

    • chaz11963 - Dec 9, 2015 at 8:28 AM

      We don’t need “anyone”; the Nats are already a very strong team. They need bullpen help and possibly another big bat OFer.

  2. philipd763 - Dec 8, 2015 at 8:46 PM

    One more day of the Winter Meetings and then just about everyone leaves Nashville by Thursday noon. Looks like close to a shut out for Rizzo unless something happens tomorrow.

  3. Sonny G 10 - Dec 8, 2015 at 9:06 PM

    Glad the Mets didn’t get Zobrist. That’s a positive right there.

  4. veejh - Dec 8, 2015 at 9:20 PM

    Lots of overpays, so far, imho. We’ve overpaid a bit for players, but I don’t know if right now overpaying more players is the move. It’s frustrating not getting the guys you covet for your team, but I believe losing out on these blockbuster deals isn’t so bad.

    • stoatva - Dec 8, 2015 at 9:35 PM

      +1

      • thewerthwhisperer - Dec 8, 2015 at 9:52 PM

        Amen to all that, glad that Zobrist not coming here, let’s see what excitement the young guys can bring.
        But you can bet that Rizzo is gonna continue to shop.

    • adcwonk - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:36 AM

      Indeed. $14m/year through age 38 sounds like an overpay.

      • Jay Cee Bullock - Dec 9, 2015 at 12:14 PM

        No different than a Werth overpay.

  5. naterialguy - Dec 8, 2015 at 11:02 PM

    I agree.So far I have not seen anyone that I feel would have been a good investment for the team. All the players that we allegedly “lost” out on have been way over valued. Rizzo historically has found hidden value. Such as Yunel, and Ross even Robinson. I am certain he will again.
    On a personal note, as long as we lose Papelbon this will be a better team.

  6. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 8, 2015 at 11:33 PM

    Didn’t get this guy, so one more player on some other team. Next!

    OT, just because it’s winter …

    Maybe they can find some speed here?

    • donniebenth - Dec 9, 2015 at 12:09 AM

      I’m all in on Heyward.

      Lefty bat and plus plus outfielder.

      Provides some protection behind Bryce (although Dusty might not want to go lefty lefty).

      Trea
      Rendon
      Esco
      Harp
      Heyward
      Werth
      Zimmerman
      Buffalo

      Bench

      Spinner
      CRob
      Lobo
      denDekker
      MAT

  7. Doc - Dec 9, 2015 at 12:07 AM

    Good!

    I want to see a 39 yr. old play 2B for the Cubbies. Maybe, towards the end of his contract they’ll put Zobrist in charge of thinking up new team skits for Maddon. LOL

  8. idus1926 - Dec 9, 2015 at 12:15 AM

    He keeps losing out on everybody, except the over the board Scherzer deal. The only explanations that the Lerners are stingy. We need new owners.

    • therealjohnc - Dec 9, 2015 at 9:49 AM

      Ah, this is satire, right? Swiftian prose to draw attention to the fact that people cling to the “LERNERZ R CHEEP” trope no matter how much money the team throws at payroll even as the only MLB team that does not have control of its own RSN. Brilliant!

      • adcwonk - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:37 AM

        Shorter version: the Nats spending so much money on Scherzer proves that Lerner’s cheap.

        Do I have that right?

  9. veejh - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:02 AM

    Lordie, I feel like we would have sold Stras last year for Castro had the Cubs been buyers. Is my memory foggy?

    • Section 222 - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:04 AM

      I’m sure someone here suggested it, but no, the Nats were never going to make that trade.

  10. kirbs3256 - Dec 9, 2015 at 7:33 AM

    I am OK with this. At least he didn’t go to the Mets to haunt us for 2 years.

    But did y’all see what the braves got for Shelby Miller!! Goodness gracious, it looks like the Diamondbacks are trying to do what the Padres did last year.

    • chaz11963 - Dec 9, 2015 at 8:32 AM

      DBacks are loaded, and it doesn’t look like they are done. I think the Dodgers and Giants are in trouble.

  11. edbrinkman - Dec 9, 2015 at 9:15 AM

    Does seem that the D’backs are ‘going for it’ in 2016. I like it!

    • therealjohnc - Dec 9, 2015 at 9:51 AM

      As a Nats fan, I like it, too! That worked out so well for the Padres, Marlins and Red Sox last year, didn’t it? The only thing I don’t like is that the trade was a really, really good one for the Braves. But that won’t likely show up for a couple of seasons anyway, so we’ll worry about it later.

  12. Whack-A-Mule - Dec 9, 2015 at 9:36 AM

    Useful as Mr. Zobrist may have been, a 4-year contract for $54M is unwise for a player who will be 35 at the beginning of Year #1, 38 for Year #4. Cubs overpaid. We did not need to.

    O’Day miscalculation will be seen as a bit loss for us, however. With a nearly-empty bullpen as of today, I think it highly likely that relief pitching will be the foremost reason that our post-season prospects are poor.

    The lack of a starting center fielder will also hurt us, if that means that MATaylor is unavailable to fill in for the 1/3 of the season that Werth is likely to miss due to injury. Similar story at 1st base, in that C.Robinson is not a starting-calibre 1st baseman to supply the 40-60 games which Zim will miss due to injury.

    We are also in need of an experienced #4 starting pitcher, having RowArk/Ross as # 5. At least one starter will be injured at any one time during a 162-game season.

    The Nats are not currently a “strong” team; they are at present a diminished version of the 2015 club that finished second behind a World Series-calibre team. Without key upgrades, mark 2016 as a “re-building year”.

    • therealjohnc - Dec 9, 2015 at 9:58 AM

      The Nats may well have a 2016 team that is, on paper, weaker than the 2015 team, which looked like a juggernaut. On paper. It’s interesting that, for a team that was undermined by injuries, many commenters seem to feel that the answer is to … sign players (Zobrist, O’Day) that are in their mid- to late-30’s! That’s, well, unorthodox.

      It’s quite likely that a 2016 team that looks like a lesser team than the 2015 team actually has a better season simply by not being hit by a perfect storm of injuries, underperformance and managerial struggles (the Nats finished six games below their “Pythagorean” record last year).

      The “World Series-caliber team” has its own problems, by the way. They were essentially a .500 club that rode six Ruthian/Harperian weeks from a player who is no longer on the team (Cespedes) to the playoffs, and then rode two Ruthian/Harperian weeks from a player who is no longer on the team (Murphy) to the WS. Their pitching means that they will always have a reasonably high ceiling (.500 or so) but they still need to figure out where their runs are going to come from.

  13. adcwonk - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    OK, so who had Grienke and Shelby Miller as 1-2 for the D-backs?

    I might add, ESPN has an article saying that the Braves deal was a steal by the Braves — that D-backs mortgaged some solid future on that one.

    • therealjohnc - Dec 9, 2015 at 11:36 AM

      The industry consensus that I’ve seen (ESPN, MLBTR, Fangraphs, etc) is that the Braves made out like bandits on this deal. A three-for-one, including last year’s #1 overall pick, Inciarte (a cheap, solid MLB OF), and a borderline top 100 pitching prospect … for Shelby Miller? That’s nuts. Miller is good, but he’s not an ace.

  14. edshelton2013 - Dec 9, 2015 at 6:31 PM

    Whack and Realjohn:
    I wanted to disagree with Whack but had to admit his (her?) points. I got depressed but then read realjohn’s rebuttal and felt like 2016 will be a good year after all.
    No one is talking about leadoff and CF. Is MAT the answer? Dusty says speed and a leadoff hitter are priorities.
    Mr. Rizzo, your move.

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