Opinion

Ben Zobrist still a possibility for Royals

Oakland’s Ben Zobrist tagged out the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmonon on an attempted steal of second base on June 30, 2015, in Oakland, Calif.
Oakland’s Ben Zobrist tagged out the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmonon on an attempted steal of second base on June 30, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. AP

The Royals made the biggest splash of the 2015 trade deadline on Sunday afternoon when they landed Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto. With the actual deadline still four days away, Kansas City may not be done, as the team is considered a serious suitor for Oakland super-utility man Ben Zobrist.

The Royals are one of many clubs to engage with the Athletics regarding Zobrist, according to people familiar with the situation. Oakland can afford to take its time sifting between offers, as Zobrist may be the most versatile player on the trade block. CBS Sports identified the Pirates, Cubs, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Mets and Angels as potential landing spots.

Even after dealing left-handed pitchers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed for Cueto, the Royals are believed to possess a prospect base capable of acquiring Zobrist. It may require parting with a pitching prospect like right-hander Miguel Almonte or southpaw Sean Manaea, both of whom were mentioned by Yahoo Sports as possibilities for a deal.

Zobrist, a 34-year-old two-time All-Star for Tampa Bay, could plug a variety of holes for the Royals. He represents a sizable upgrade at second base over Omar Infante, who has slumped all season long and owns a .551 on-base plus slugging percentage. A switch hitter, Zobrist entered Monday with an .801 OPS, a testament to his on-base skills and his ability to hit doubles (20 in 67 games).

Zobrist can also play both corner outfield positions. He could fill in for Alex Gordon until Gordon returns from the disabled list in September, or replace Alex Rios, if he is unable to sustain his recent surge.

Zobrist missed a month after surgery in late April to repair his left knee. His performance has not lagged since his return, with an .827 OPS in 53 games.

If Kansas City cannot land Zobrist, they may turn their sights to Miami infielder Martin Prado, who could fill a similar role. The team has considering a pursuit of Prado, according to people familiar with the situation. He is a less appealing hitter than Zobrist, with a .680 OPS for Miami, but his ability to play multiple infield positions also appeals to the Royals. It is unlikely Kansas City would need to part with a premier prospect to trade for Prado.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4730 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.

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