Ben Zobrist has been my white whale for years. Years! For the second straight offseason, the Giants had a chance to get him. For the second straight year, they fell just short. Now he's hitting .328/.448/.504, which is like a switch-hitting Brandon Belt who can play second. That's absurd.
Which brings us to another episode of Hypothetical Theater. Here's the timeline of the offseason:
- December 4 - Diamondbacks sign Zack Greinke
- December 5 - Giants sign Jeff Samardzija
- December 8 - Cubs sign Zobrist
- December 14 - Giants sign Johnny Cueto
- January 7 - Giants sign Denard Span
So we know that Zobrist wouldn't have affected the Giants' plans to sign Samardzija. And while we don't know for sure if they still would have pursued Cueto, it seems likely that they still would have, considering they still had enough to sign Span.
That means the choice was probably Denard Span for three years, $31 million, or Ben Zobrist for four years, $56 million. Our job today is to see if the Giants have hypothetical regrets, even though Zobrist wanted to be "closer to his family" or something absurd. I can help with this.
Zobrist in left field would have meant Angel Pagan in center field all season, where he would have been a liability.
Span has a sweet .373 OBP in the leadoff spot and has been coming along quite nicely in recent weeks, getting on base twice or more in nine out of his last 14 games.
Zobrist is three years older than Span, yet got a contract for an extra year and $25 million.
Zobrist's 2015 defensive numbers in the outfield weren't pretty, albeit in a tiny sample. But I wouldn't want to test them for the next four years.
The Giants' offseason has been an amazing success thus far, and I wouldn't want to mess with it for anyone.
I'm pretty danged okay with Zobrist as the One Who Got Away, even if he's having an amazing season for the Cubs. They sure need all the help they can get, what with 11 horrible losses on the year.
Still, I enjoy trips into Hypothetical Theater, where the popcorn is free. If the Giants signed Zack Greinke and Zobrist in November, I would have did a Snoopy dance until March, dog dish on my head and everything. It's weird how they spread their money around in almost the very best possible way instead. At least, that's what it appears like so far. There's still a lot of season left. Ha ha. Ha.
What it comes down to is that I don't think I could have survived another season of Pagan in center. Even if it came with a resurgent bat and great health, it was just too clear that he was overextended last year at one of the most important defensive positions in baseball, especially in a park like AT&T with a huge outfield. Span might not be the Gold Glove contender he used to be, but he's acquitted himself quite well in the field after a slow start.
So welcome, Ben Zobrist. No hard feelings about your decision, considering it all worked out for everyone involved. And welcome, Cubs. Try not to touch anything. Please remember that if you win, it's because you didn't face the real top of the rotation, so DON'T GET COCKY. We'll have Ricky Nolasco by July, anyway, and that will surely even up the score.
That doesn't mean that I'm not still coveting Zobrist, though. The pain and yearning will never get better.