As the trade deadline approaches, it's apparent the Cubs could use another hitter — preferably a battle-tested veteran who can provide a consistent, advanced approach at the plate, especially against top-notch pitching.
Ideally, that hitter would be able to play second base or the outfield (or both) and be able to slide into the leadoff spot to help set the table for Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Oh, and it'd be great if he could hit left-handed and even better if he could switch-hit.
Sound like anybody you know?
In so many ways, Ben Zobrist is the perfect guy to add to this current roster to help take the edges off the Jekyll and Hyde style offense the Cubs have displayed for much of the year.
Zobrist has indicated to the Cubs he would like to return this season after going on the restricted list with a personal issue in early May.
However, the Cubs can't necessarily count on Zobrist's return as a guaranteed boost to this lineup and team whenever he is able to make it back.
"At this point, it doesn't [have any affect on what we do ahead of the trade deadline]," Theo Epstein said Monday evening at Wrigley Field. "But if we have more of a definitive plan, it's something we wouldn't necessarily overly rely on, but I think we'd plan for his possible return at a later date. Some steps to go before we get to that point."
The trade deadline is just over two weeks away and unlike years past, there is no August waiver deadline this season. So the Cubs can't go out and add a guy like Daniel Murphy after July 31 this year to augment their lineup.
As for a timeline on Zobrist, Epstein said there is currently no target date set up and he still has to chat with the veteran about getting a plan in place. The two have been texting, but Epstein will speak to Zobrist soon to nail down a more specific plan of attack moving forward.
"We're still hopeful that he returns," Epstein said. "We need to make sure that can happen and then get a plan in place for exactly how we're gonna accomplish it for him and for the team."
Even if Zobrist and the Cubs had an exact return date in mind, he wouldn't be able to help this team immediately upon being activated off the restricted list. The 38-year-old veteran would need to go to Arizona and/or a minor-league rehab stint for at least a few weeks to get his timing back and ramp up to game shape after missing several months of the big-league season.
Even in a best-case scenario, Zobrist probably wouldn't return to Chicago until mid-to-late August and is probably more likely on course for roster expansion on Sept. 1.
As for how much the Cubs miss Zobrist and could use him in their lineup right now, listen to manager Joe Maddon talking about what his team needs before the trade deadline before Sunday afternoon's game at Wrigley Field:
"Overall, if you could maybe just add that element where one more consistent bat in there — a real pro at-bat," Maddon said. "Like, we're missing Zobrist. That's a perfect guy, but he's not here anytime soon. Zo fits into what we're doing so well. We miss that, I believe.
"I mean, Zo, you could always rely on him for that pro at-bat at the beginning of the game, leading off in front of the other guys. What I mean by that is he normally would never expand the strike zone. Almost never. And you can see him just shut down — the ball would be right there and automatically, you could see it's gonna be a ball from the side, but he's already shutting [his swing] down. Not even a flinch. That's the one component at the top.
"We have guys that work a good at-bat — I'm not saying we don't. Something like that can be very contagious."