Level 101 Grok: Ben Zobrist 2014 in Seattle
Now we're talking OBP


Q.  Isn't this the guy that has Dr. D always swooning away with the vapors?

A.  Full disclosure, dept:  Ben Zobrist has always been one of my fave ballplayers, and one of the first I'd like to have on my team.

There's a bias going there.  Dr. D may be "too close to the situation."  ;- )

But there are two players for whom the July rumors are accelerating at the moment ... this guy, and Byrd.


Q.  Would Dr. D give one of the two glamor arms for him?

A.  End of discussion.  I might not ever talk to the Rays again, if they asked a 3rd time about it.  And knowing them, that's precisely what they've done.

D.J. Peterson?  Perhaps.  Between D.J. and 27 homers in the American League there is a long, LONG way.  Nick Franklin?  Let's talk.  I've got to be reasonable; Nick is devalued a bit right now.  That happens when MLB pitchers expose you.

Nothing wrong with growing pains; Miller has had those.  But there's a subtle difference you can't quite put your finger on...  Brad Miller is not leaving Seattle in order for me to play Ben Zobrist in RF.


:- )


Q.  Is Zobrist getting old?

A.  I don't think so, no.

Not right this second, we mean.  ... Obviously, he's year-to-year.


A lot of behind-the-monitors guys panicked at his earlier slump in 2014, but ... for about 12 reasons, Dr. D doesn't think Zobrist has lost bat launch.

For one thing, the leading indicator here is EYE; Zobrist's EYE is superb, as we speak.  For another thing, his O-Swing% and SwStr% are as solid as a rock.  For another thing, watch him.


Q.  What's that stuff in that article about losing speed?

A.  "Old Players' Skills."  Google it.


Q.  Is he better against RH or LHP?

A.  It's very nice:  he is rawhide-tough against both.

He's a skosh more comfy against LHP, which is pleasant for Seattle.


Q.  Is he good in Safeco?

A.  It's very nice:  he is rawhide-tough in Safeco.

He does what Cano does:  he gives up SLG, and gets (if anything) better with AVG and OBP.


Q.  Is he an NL player?

A.  It's very nice:  he's an AL player, good at hitting pitchers' pitches, too.


Q.  Is that real OBP we are talking about?

A.  It's very nice:  Zobrist never has an OBP below .350, and he's got enough power to enforce that OBP.


Q.  Does it devalue him, that you wouldn't use him at 2B?

A.  Admittedly.

But you would use him at SS, which he can definitely play ... you simply cannot overstate the impact of having a Mark McLemore who plays every day at different positions.  It's a hard-to-perceive value, but it's a pennant-winning value.


If you're a guy for whom WAR blots out the sun ... there's no holdup here.  Zobrist racks up the WAR, even as an outfielder with a 110'ish OPS+.

We are not talking Chone Figgins here, an illusory WAR hero who might collapse.  Ben Zobrist packs enough danger, and enough toughness, to harden his own game.


For me, Zobrist plays RF, LF, SS, DH, occasional 1B ... and he leads off or hits #2.  He's the OBP player we need in front of the two RBI men.  And he gives a rough time to the good pitching, right in front of the other guys who give a rough time to good pitching.


Q.  Hmmmmmmm... you got me wavering ...

A.  Put it this way.  Billy Beane deals for Ben Zobrist, how's that grab you?


Q.  So you give the Rays the fillings out of your blinkin' teeth for Zobrist?

A.  No.

But Zobrist is indeed a (relatively) impact add, for this particular lineup, at this particular time.  If it takes (say) Diaz and two or three other prospects that they like a lot ... or maybe even D.J. and nominal throwins, then ... let's talk.


That's my opinion I could be wrong,

Dr D






Which I admit is probably an overpay. But for this team...Zobrist is the ONE guy I'd give up Peterson for. Seriously. I would sacrifice several large animals to Zduriencik if he can land Zobrist.


Link here. She doesn't think DJ should go for any mere rental.  Zobrist isn't just a rental bat, we'd have him next year as well.  And, he can get a qualifying offer, which either means he returns, or there is a draft pick in Tom MacNamara's kill zone of the end of the first round.  It worked with Kendrys right?


As to why The Counselor would quote Drayer's opinion, as opposed to Drayer's report of (say) "an unnamed GM's" opinion.
Not trying to be snarky, just curious.  I mean, you're a man who knows witness credibility.  You find her baseball judgment to be expert?
I like Drayer, and I love the fact that she unabashedly admits that she feels privileged about her job.  Didn't think of her job as analysis, particularly.
I guess what I'm trying to get to here is ...   what is D.J. Peterson's chance of being a star in the AL?  Perhaps 20%?  Or maybe I'm wrong about that.
If you give him a 20% chance of starring, and a further 30% chance of giving 3-4 years of club-controls contribution, would that be worth Zobrist to YOU Mojo?  :- )
I'm having a hard time grok'ing D.J. as an untouchable, or anything LIKE an untouchable, especially in Safeco.  But I've always been behind the curve on D.J.  Maybe you guys can convince me.


... Franklin and Peterson, I'd have to go home and sleep on that too.
It's not that Zobrist is so unbelievable, at his age, but man do we need somebody to play in front of Cano and Seager... :- )


I would overpay for Zobrist precisely because he is the perfect...the PERFECT man to hit #2 for this club. Saunders/Jones #1, Zobrist #2, get yer some speedy guys on base in front of Cano and Seager...let those hits they keep getting count.


And Drayer has some good shtick. The best interviews, radio, Bob n Groz debates, all good stuff. Come drink the Kool Aid, you might like it! Credibility has nothing to do with it. Plus, ESPN 710 is free. A most glorious virtue.

The Counselor! You reserve that title for the Solicitor General or someone. The reality is me fighting for a dog in a divorce or trying to keep drug addicts out of jail. I have a child custody trick or treating feud every blessed year. Every day someone says "I just need to vent". Then afterward, they feel better and I read SSI. That doesn't qualify me as an expert on very much. But I got an eye for shtick.

I don't have an opinion on whether DJ is too good to trade. But we all have our untouchables. Thats part of the fun of being a Mariner fan. For me it's Paxton and Zunino. Don't touch them! Those other guys? Whatever Z thinks is best.

GLS's picture

But the thing is, he is a valuable piece and so I don't give him up easily. I love Ben Zobrist, but DJ is a shiny prospect right now and I wonder if we would be giving up a tad too much. I DO wonder where he's going to play given that he doesn't seem to be getting any time in the outfield and LoMo seems intent on taking 1B for his ownself, and so I've started to think about DJ as prime trade bait, but ideally in a bigger deal than one for Zobrist. One offseason possibility: DJ + Brad Miller + something for Troy Tulowitski.


about Zobrist at all. I was ready to argue against it, but mulled it over, and it makes good sense. I'm cool with a Franklin/DJ for Zobrist deal. We're in a bidding war for him, and you know what they say about fans overvaluing their own prospects (they overvalue their own prospects, that's what they say). Tell you what, I don't know what Beane would do here, but if Sabean wants him, well, that's good enough for me. That guy knows how to pick the second half pennant chasing stud, that's for sure. If we could have a Zobrist/Saunders top o' the lineup, and move Jones down to 9, I think we could be in business. And Zobrist comes as a Saunders insurance policy.
It just kills me that Ackley isn't capable of being for us what Zobrist is for the Rays.
And give me Kelly and Montero.

GLS's picture

Basically, I'm thinking about a trade for an aircraft carrier that is on the same level as Cano, or similar. I suppose the Mariners might shy away from the salary, even though we all know they can afford it with ease.


If I were running the team and had the freedom to do things my way, I would be trading Walker, Franklin and Peterson for Price and Zobrist and fighting like never before to extend Price. The Mariners' excuse in such a scenario is that they already locked up two players to 50+ million in payroll for the next 5 years and can't afford to take another mega-contract. They'll say it would limit our flexibility going forward. They are right if their payroll can't increase...but we all know that it can.
No one is buying what the Mariners are selling regarding smart investments and limited long term risk. Winning franchises take those risks.


Not Deej and Franklin when there are other guys around to cover Zobrist's skill set. Well, not DJ.
Assuming Zobrist is now a .266-.352/12 homer guy...well we have one in Tacoma.  I'm convinced.  OK.  We have one who is close.  I'm rolling that guy out there before I throw away a terrific RH power bat (potentially) for a guy we may already have.
Zobrist was at AAA from ages 25-27.  His line was .301-.416-.464 w/11 homers in 362 AB's (1/33 AB's)
Kelly has been there from ages 23-25.  His line is .292-.420-.431 w/16 homers in 524 AB's (1/33 AB's)
Zobrist K'ed once every 6 AB's, Kelly 1 in 5.  
Apples and oranges, I know.  But we may have our own switch-hitting, jack-of-all-trades waiting to be utilized.  
Now you could color me tickled if we use 'em both, one in LF and one at DH.  
Count me in for that.  Franklin/Blash/Paolini/etc.  Send 'em on.
But there is no real good bet that Zobrist is any better for the next 70 games than Byrd or Willingham or Rios, etc.  At least that is not a bet that I'm willing to move Peterson for.  Based on the 1st half numbers (and those of  '13) you can figure Zobrist for about 15 doubles and 4 or 5 homers from here on out (and I know you get him next year, too).   For the 12th pick in the draft?  
If you get Byrd, you may be stuck with the extra whip out in '16.  With Rios you are probably just buying him out next year and not paying the $13.5M in  '15.  But Zobrist is a cheap $7.5M next year, which judging from his performance decline, will be the last year you want him, anyway.  So Zobrist is a very nice match for next year.  But it is this year you're buying him for, mainly.
You can get him for Frankln and young bats and a young arm, etc.  But you don't have to include DJ. And I don't think that I would.  But I would be in the market early, trying to close the deal this week.  Make them a sweet Friday only deal.
And get Montero here to bat against LHP, BTW.  He's pretty cheap.  

GLS's picture

Well, this is where the speculation about a sale of the franchise comes in. Given what we know about the club's financial situation, they should be able to afford a heck of a lot more. They could go on a spending spree if they felt like it. $150m/year should be very doable for this franchise.


1. As pointed out by all, OBP at the top of the lineup. BADLY needed.
2. As pointed out, positional flexibility. To me this goes beyond plugging a hole. It's a hedge against a single injury taking down your entire season. The way the M's are configured right now any one of a number of single player injuries would derail everything. Zobrist is the kind of guy who could step into an injury-vacated position and hold the fort the rest of the way.
For this reason, I don't see Zobrist as The Big Add. He would be The Security Blanket. You add a RH bat for RF to bat behind Cano, AND you add Zobrist to insure that your Big Add doesn't end up being irrelevant. If you add, say, Rios AND Zobrist you've really got something. If you just add Zobrist you improve your offense a little, but probably not enough to get the job done.

Katal's picture

Ha; last night I was reading your piece from a few days ago, and was compelled to ask your opinion on Zobey before figuring otherwise. A package based around Franklin would be highly intriguing.


... for asking double.  Last rumor was that they indeed wanted Taijuan plus two relatively impact prospects, just for Price.
Taijuan alone for Price would be a very tough call, but the Rays .... I'd rather deal with 28 other teams, probably.  But to answer your question, if Taijuan + Franklin (and unimportant low-minors names) would get you Price + Zobrist ... and you felt confident in extending Price ... and the Committee would give Zobrist a fair mutual option for 2016 ... sure, I'd work something around that situation.
Trading for Price, Zobrist and Willingham (? Quentin, whoever) is preposterous in Seattle, but it wouldn't be for other ownerships, in large-market cities with $90M payrolls and new TV deals.
That said, as good as Price is, I'd probably call 28 other teams and figure something else out.  They're too weird for me.  Hope their delusions don't apply to Zobrist.


He's what I would consider the lower bounds of --- > a move that is NOT cosmetic only.
He'd help the club, though, and significantly.  So this being Seattle -- and them AGAIN THIS YEAR sending the warnings that payroll is ever-so-tight -- it's what our fansights might on.
:: daps :: DaddyO


It's interesting that so many reliable sources say that.  (1) the moves they make do smack of sale preparation.  but (2) the owners always thoroughly enjoyed their lot in life.
They could do anything they wanted, yeah, agreed.  Won't SHOCK us if this year they pull off a big July.  But I'll give 3:1, 4:1 against.


To be sure it didn't even occur to me that you were suggesting Zobrist as The Big Add. My main point was to add what I thought is a significant consideration, Zobrist as The Hedge Against Significant Injury. If I could, I'd get him on this basis alone.


It didn't take Franklin 90 games to adjust.  He came in hot and stayed hot...for about 50 games. 
Joe Charboneau? He had 70 smoking games and then 60 VG ones.  Then he became Joe Shlabotnik.
You get it.  Heck, it might take Zobrist 70 games to get used to Dungeness crab.  
If it is flexibility and OBP we need, I think we've got one of those guys stashed somewhere.  I'm not giving up DJ for Zobrist, if that is what we're looking for.  If we're looking for a bonking bat, then it isn't Zobrist.
I would be tickled to get Zobrist, don't get me wrong.  He is certainly an upgrade over Endy Ackley or Dustin Chavez and goodness knows that would be welcome.  But there seems to be a buyers market out there for just such an upgrade and there is no guarantee that one is better than the other for the next 70 games.  
Of the veteran guys available, I think Zobrist is my favorite (well, after Craig, or course).  Then Rios and Willingham and Byrd.....probably in that order.  But players swapped out count.  BTW, I bet you could get pretty close to geting Rios with Smoak.
I'm more and more convinced that we are going to keep Endy around all year, alas.  He's the Skipper's kind of guy.  
If Grichuk and Souza are really available then I'm going hard after them.  Lake, too.  All are 3 position OF'ers (Lake has played tons of MiLB IF, Souza, too) and promise (or hint at being) to be potent RH bats.
All have been up.  Lake was pretty good last year.  In a full season of AA/AAA (and evenly split combined 646 PA's), Souza has 29 homers, 42 doubles and 82 BB's...almost evenly split between the two levels as well.  He basically spent '08-'12 in the various A-Ball levels.  He wasn't very good until '12 when he figured it out a bit and hit 23 homers.  He took off in '13 at AA and it's cotinued in '14 at AAA.   Either he figured something out or he's been really lucky for 140 games.  He walks like a champ, too.
Grichuk is the youngest,  at only 22.  As a 17 year old in Rook ball he was .322-.352-.551!  A prodigy?  I think he struggled with injury as an 18 and 19 year old, but still flashed power with 34 doubles and 14 homers in just 117 games over two seasons.  As a 20-yr old in the Cal League he was 30 and 18. In '13 in AA he was at 27 doubles and 22 homers. In less than 1/2 a season in AAA, he's whacked 16 and 16 this year.  He doesn't walk much...but he's been really young at every level and he still bonks.  Would love to see a Spec analysis on him.  He's already got an MLB homer, too.  
We know who our CF and RF are for next year.  Getting a young LF with a potent RH bat (Blash is a huge unknown) would be great.  Add Kelly and you would have a flexible and VERY cheap OF, which would allow you to chase a Price or a huge 1B bat.  
Anyway, back to the chase.  I like Zobrist. I would rather keep DJ with all the other pieces available.
And I would gladly go for one of the young guys mentioned above.  Unless you're convinced that Ackley is ready to explode (not me) then we don't have that LF RH bat for next year, outside of Kelly.  I'm in on getting a young one.
Grichuk is short and quick to the ball  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpq5PZpAXEo and here's a triple in Wrigley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7dh55hkhOk.  There was some discussion about Souza's cut being a bit long, but I'm not seeing it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3vwk1dOtlU (and youtube has video of some prodigious homers in Syracuse).  And here's Junior Lake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug_QMrcu360  He'll get it out of Safeco.  He isn't going to walk and he is going to K, but he will hit homers.  He's basically Blash's upside, I think.
If we can roll Franklin + into ANY ONE of these guys, we should do it in a heartbeat!  I would plug anyone of them in immediately into LF. Now get me Zobrist and I can give up DJ as I've replaced him with a MLB ready RH bat.
Ackley and DJ for Zobrist.  Franklin goes for one of the kids. DFA Hart or demote Smoak.  Saunders for Endy.   Kelly will eventually hit his way into Safeco, anyway.  
Then we will be cooking with gas:  This year and next.
make it so.
Spec:  Can you put together a Grichuk vs. Souza vs. Lake analysis?
I think I like them in that order Is Grichuk the prodigy a better bet than a "late" blooming and mashing and walking Souza?  Pick em, probably.  Lake and Zunino may duplicate each other is some ways.  I've been looking at them for two days  Ask me to rank them again in 10 minutes and I might change.  


A Zobrist/Price deal would be the kind of splash Beane made. You shouldn't have to pay more than what Oakland did (which I admit is fairly substantial, but probably less than what Big Blog dogmatists would think).
If you can't make that deal because TB wants the moon so be it. If you can't make the deal because of money, then we know nothing has really changed in terms of risk-aversion (perceived) by these guys. I'm still cynical on that side of things.


... now that Paxton and Walker are presumed to be big-league rotation parts, let's say.  Maybe he's #2 behind Jackson, but little AJ is currently 6 levels away from the bigs, and DJ is in AA, starred in the Futures Game, and should be ready by Spring 2016 if we wanna take it slow.
You don't spend your best trade chip and top-50 minor league prospect on a pretty decent player. It devalues the rest of your system. ;-)
Our system/young player list breaks down like this:
- Two top-50-style pitching prospects (Walker and Paxton) who have basically graduated
- Two top-50-style hitting prospects (Jackson and Deej) who are very much in the system
- a MOR starter (Elias) in the middle of a ML rookie learning curve, and another in AA (Sanchez)
- a couple of top-100-style middle infielders (Franklin and Taylor) sitting in AAA, plus a .300-hitting baby in AA (Marte)
- a few low-minors arms with tons of upside (Diaz, Gohara and Missaki, among others)
- SEVERAL raw outfielders with plus hitting talent (Morgan, Wilson, O'Neill, Guerrero, Kivlehan, Henry)
- two suspended hitters with large upside (Choi and Blash) but decreased trade value
- talented pitchers with injury issues (Hultzen, Landazuri, etc) and bullpenners galore.
If we say Nick Franklin would slot in around our #6-ish prospect based on that list, and DJ would be #3.... you don't trade two of your top 6 prospects for a couple years of .750 OPS... do you?
I mean on this team it would be great - but that can't be market value.
We don't trade DJ and Franklin for him, I can't imagine.  Problem is, they might trade Kivlehan and Franklin and have Tampa Bay come out ahead on that deal.  We have a lot of decent prospects and no real world beaters (taking Paxton and Walker out of the equation).  I don't want to roll several of my very good prospects into one pretty good player.
I want Zobrist... but I want to have the arsenal to throw at a top-shelf talent, too. Overpaying in prospect-currency for Zobrist doesn't help us do that. We should be able to add him with lesser players.


Is DJ a better prospect than Choi? Better than Blash? Is he really that much better than Henry? Is he going to be able to man the outfield? Can he cover the ground needed in Safeco? Does he have holes that haven't yet been exploited? He's only now playing at AA.
Color me skeptical. I got me the Ackley, Smoak, Montero Can't Miss blues.
If I want a Mustang convertable for the summer, and I think I should get more money on my trade in than being offered, or the price of the Mustang has gone way up due to increasing demand, I may stand pat, and I may be right. But I don't get to enjoy the Mustang until November, when the top is up all the time.
Thing is, if I can get Zobrist for Blash, or Kivlehan, or Nick, or Choi, or Henry, instead of DJ, then I may feel that's a fair deal, but seriously, I am simply parroting what the consensus said Dustin, Smoak and Montero was worth. I really don't see it. I do see some impressive statistics at higher levels from most of these others, however.
But hey, I am nothing if not teachable. Everything I know about our farm system I learned from Gordon, and Spec, sprinkled with some Bat and MoeDawg.
Can you name some players, who are ready to contribute to a pennant chase today, who we would be able to get for DJ Peterson, and who you would say was a good deal - for both sides? No player is untouchable. If a player is untouchable, all that really means is the holder of that player has decided he's worth more than anything anyone would offer for him. It also means, in too many cases, that the holder is going to stand pat, and fall short of a pennant run again.
Now, I am a guy who has learned patience from being an M's fan. I was prepared to have a winning season this year - no pennant - and I determined - ahead of time - that I should prepare for a fallback losing season in 2015 as we consolidate our gains. Then, in 2016, based largely on what Gordon has taught me regarding our farm system and the crop and harvest and seasons, we were going to make one helluva run and become a truly elite team. Last season I penned an article demonstrating that the Mariners would be better off if they never made a trade, ever, ever, ever. Like the guy who says invest in the Standard and Poor index, and leave it there, because you will be better off in the long run than if you shuffle it here and there in a vain attempt to beat the market.
However, the opportunity now presents itself to move a little quicker, and I can hear Matt's hair tear with every post he makes. And I like Matt. I don't want him to bald prematurely. So I'm willing to trade some of these can't miss studs in the expectation that we have lots of very good players left who are nearly as able to be productive players for us who will be left. Players who have shown skill levels in mid to high minors, and more in the pipeline.
Anyway, all that to ask this: if you wouldn't trade DJ for Zobrist, who would you trade him for? And how would that trade make sense to the other side?


Agreed that under most circumstances, you don't give your best offensive prospect for the #2 guy on your wish list to win now. And as I noted, I considered that offer an overpay. Thing is...our other, less glam prospects no one wants right now...as we need to get SOMEthing...it's not a good situation but we've killed the value on guys like Franklin and Kivlehan by having a giant string of Mariner prospects come to the show and immediately flop.


That's the kind of analysis I was looking for from yer.
Right, DJ and Franklin sounds like too *much* of an overpay for Zobrist, now that he's well into his 30's and is year-to-year.  You could get a Choo and Cabrera for Broussard and Perez situation ... well, not quite, 'cause Zobrist isn't going to pull a Broussard.  But still.
That still leaves many options in terms of a nice trade package for Zobrist.
DJ for Zobrist, even steven, you do THAT Gordon?

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