Ben Zobrist

Phillies rumors: Stars aside, Phils should consider trading for Ben Zobrist

Phillies rumors: Stars aside, Phils should consider trading for Ben Zobrist

When Josh Harrison signed a four-year extension with the Pirates in 2015 worth more than $27 million, he probably didn't expect his next contract to be smaller.

Welcome to free agency in 2019.

That four-year extension bought out all three of Harrison's arbitration years and the first year he would have been eligible for free agency. In 2018, he was the Pirates' second-highest-paid player, earning $10.25 million. (Francisco Cervelli made $10.5M.)

The Pirates held options on Harrison for 2019 and 2020 but declined them, making him a free agent. So at age 31, coming off his least healthy and least productive season since 2013, Harrison is trying to find a new home.

The Phillies, along with at least three other teams, have reportedly expressed interest in Harrison. Why not? He will almost certainly fail to find a contract of more than two years, and given the recent contracts we've seen, it looks like his annual salary will be relatively low.

Something like two years, $10 million could get Harrison signed. Keep in mind that Andrew McCutchen is still the only position player this offseason to switch teams and receive a contract of more than two years.

D.J. LeMahieu signed a two-year, $24 million deal with the Yankees. Daniel Murphy got the same deal from the Rockies. Wilson Ramos got $19M over two years from the Mets. All three are more impactful players than Harrison and all are coming off better seasons.

Harrison's deal should be closer to what Ian Kinsler (two years, $8 million) received from the Padres. While Kinsler is five years older than Harrison, he's been the superior offensive player the last three years.

Harrison's big year was 2014, when he made the All-Star team, hit .315/.347/.490, played five different positions and signed an extension after the season. In the four seasons since, he's hit .274/.319/.396 for an OPS eight percent below the league average.

But Harrison would provide value for a team on the brink of contention. If the Phillies sign him, they wouldn't be utilizing him as the Pirates did. They wouldn't be batting him toward the top of the order and allocating 500 plate appearances to him. 

Instead, Harrison would serve as a solid bench piece, a super-sub capable of playing second base, third base, left field, right field and maybe shortstop in a pinch. Harrison is a solid defender at second, third and the outfield corners. He won't wow you day by day but he also won't hurt you. For reference, Harrison has saved 35 more defensive runs at second base than Cesar Hernandez since 2013, according to Fangraphs data.

Looking at the Phillies' current roster, Harrison (or anyone else the Phillies sign as bench depth) would take the 25-man roster spot of Aaron Altherr. That would be an upgrade. If the Phillies do eventually sign Manny Machado, the corresponding move would likely be a trade of Maikel Franco.

The Phillies already have a utilityman in Scott Kingery, who in 2018 played 18 innings in right field, 30 in left field, 23 at second base, 76 at third base and 887 at second base. Adding another player who can play all over the diamond would allow Kingery to focus mostly on playing up the middle, which could benefit him. 

Offensively, Harrison is a mixed bag. A team can feel good that he'll hit between .275 and .290. His career batting average is .277, and he hit .290 in the four seasons leading up to an unhealthy 2018.

Harrison does not walk or see many pitches, though. He's walked just 120 times in 3,012 career plate appearances. Put another way, Harrison has walked 10 more times in his career than Carlos Santana did last season.

Go for Zobrist

The more difference-making utilityman, from an offensive standpoint, would be Ben Zobrist, who the Cubs are reportedly considering trading and couldn't expect a ton in return for. Zobrist, a switch-hitter, is entering the final year of his contract. He'll make $12 million in 2019.

Turning 38 on May 26, Zobrist is no spring chicken. But he has remained a solid offensive threat into his late-30s and can do so many things for a team ready to win. 

The left side of the diamond is probably off limits for Zobrist at this point in all but the most extreme of circumstances. He hasn't played third base since 2015 and has played just 13 innings of shortstop since 2014. But Zobrist can play first base, second base and both outfield corners well.

Last season, Zobrist hit .305/.378/.440 for the Cubs. In fact, over the last five seasons, his OPS has been at least 15 percent above the league average each year except 2017.

Zobrist consistently has high-quality plate appearances. He works deep counts, fouls off tough pitches and walks nearly as much as he strikes out. The last four seasons, Zobrist has 267 walks and 269 strikeouts.

He'd be a much more potent offensive threat than Harrison. And Zobrist's penchant for making contact, especially in high-pressure situations, would add a wrinkle to the Phillies' offense. He's a guy you can legitimately bat anywhere from second through sixth and not feel like you've created a hole in the lineup. 

Imagine, for example, a game against a right-handed pitcher in which the Phillies' lineup looks like this:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Jean Segura, SS
3. Manny Machado, 3B
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Andrew McCutchen, LF
6. Ben Zobrist, RF
7. Odubel Herrera, CF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Pitcher

That would be a deep lineup with power, on-base skills and six different players capable of hitting .280 or better.

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The curse is over! Cubs win first World Series since 1908

The curse is over! Cubs win first World Series since 1908

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- The wait `til next year is finally over. The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

Ending more than a century of flops, futility and frustration, the Cubs won their first title since 1908, outlasting the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 10 innings of a Game 7 thriller early Thursday.

"It happened. It happened. Chicago, it happened," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "We did it. We're world champions. I tell ya, we're world champions. I can't believe it."

Lovable losers for generations, the Cubs nearly let this one get away, too. All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman blew a three-run lead with two outs in the eighth when Rajai Davis hit a tying homer.

But the Cubs, after tormenting their fans one more time, came right back after a 17-minute rain delay before the top of the 10th.

Ben Zobrist hit an RBI double and Miguel Montero singled home a run to make it 8-6. Davis delivered an RBI single with two outs in the bottom half, but Mike Montgomery closed it out at 12:47 a.m., and the celebration was on.

Blue-clad Cubs fans who traveled from Wrigley Field filled nearly the entire lower deck behind the Chicago dugout at Progressive Field, singing "Go! Cubs! Go!"

Manager Joe Maddon's team halted the longest title drought in baseball, becoming the first club to overcome a 3-1 Series deficit since the 1985 Kansas City Royals.

Cleveland was trying to win its first crown since 1948, but manager Terry Francona's club lost the last two games at home.

World Series favorites since spring training, Chicago led the majors with 103 wins this season.

The Cubs then ended more than a century of misery for their loyal fans -- barely. Third baseman Kris Bryant, one of Chicago's young stars, began smiling even before fielding a grounder by Michael Martinez and throwing it across to Rizzo for the final out.

Zobrist was chosen as the World Series MVP, a year after he helped the Royals win the championship.

Zobrist was among the players brought to the Cubs by Theo Epstein, the baseball guru added another crown to his collection. He also assembled the Red Sox team that broke Boston's 86-year drought with the 2004 championship.

From Curse of the Bambino to the Billy Goat Curse, he ended another jinx.

The Indians, meanwhile, added more heartbreak. In their previous World Series appearance, they were a double-play grounder from winning the title before losing Game 7 in 11 innings to the Marlins.

"It's going to hurt. It hurts because we care, but they need to walk with their head held high because they left nothing on the field," Francona said.

After defeating San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs, Chicago became the first team to earn a title by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

While Cubs fans hugged with delight, there was only despair for the Indians, who now have gone longer than anyone without a crown.

Dexter Fowler homered on Corey Kluber's fourth pitch of the game, 23-year-old Javier Baez and 39-year-old David Ross also went deep for the Cubs, who led 5-1 in the fifth inning and 6-3 in the eighth.

Chapman wound up with the win and Montgomery got one out for his first save in the majors.

Bryan Shaw, who gave up a leadoff single to Kyle Schwarber in the 10th, took the loss.

It was just the fourth time that a Game 7 went to extra innings, and the rain delayed play until 12:11 a.m. in a still-packed ballpark.

Albert Almora Jr., pinch-running for Schwarber, alertly took second on Bryant's long fly to center. Rizzo was intentionally walked and Zobrist slapped an opposite-field double past a diving third baseman Jose Ramirez. Montero singled to make it a two-run lead.

Then in the bottom half, Carl Edwards Jr. struck out Mike Napoli, Ramirez grounded out, Brandon Guyer walked and Davis hit an RBI single. Montgomery took over, and helped set off a wild celebration on Chicago's North Side.

Cubs jumped on each other between the mound and second base, and their fans in the stands kept cheering.

Twenty-one other teams had won the World Series since Cubs last were champions. They reached the top again on the 39,466th day after Orval Overall's three-hit shutout won the 1908 finale at Detroit in a game that took 1:24. At the time, Theodore Roosevelt was president, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states, and the first Ford Model T car was two weeks old.

The Cubs were last champions when Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance won consecutive titles in 1907-08, until now the only ones in team history. The Cubbies had not even reached the Series since 1945.

This one was for Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo and Billy Williams, who never reached the postseason.

For Gabby Hartnett, Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux, whose October runs fell short.

For Lee Elia and the "nickle-dime people" who spent so many wind-swept afternoons in the Friendly Confines watching loss after loss.

For Bill Veeck, who planted ivy vines against Wrigley Field's outfield walls.

For William Sianis, the Billy Goat Tavern owner said to have proclaimed when he was asked to leave Wrigley with his pet during the `45 Series: "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more."

For Steve Bartman, whose life was upended when he tried to catch a foul ball as the Cubs came apart in the 2003 playoffs.

And for Harry Caray, who promised viewers after the 1991 finale that "sure as God made green apples, someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series."

Maddon, hired before the 2015 season, won his first Series title after establishing a loose clubhouse that featured at times Warren the pink flamingo, Simon the magician and the motto: "Try not to suck."

Thousands of blue-clad Cubs fans found a way to get tickets and appeared to number nearly half the crowd of 38,104 at Progressive Field. They rocked the joint when Fowler put Chicago ahead with the first leadoff home run in a decisive Game 7.

Pen pals
This was the first World Series in which no starting pitcher got at least one out in the seventh inning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only other in which no starter finished at least seven innings was in 2002, when San Francisco's Russ Ortiz threw 6 1/3 innings in Game 6.

Up next
Cleveland's spring training opener is scheduled for Feb. 26 against the Cubs in Mesa, Arizona.