Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs is not just ‘another addition’ to the 2019 roster. He has been a catalyst for the Cubs since 2016, winning the World Series MVP and was a key player for the World Series champion Kansas City Royals in 2015. It’s obvious throughout his career he’s been a player that’s forced the momentum swing for the better of his team, has been a thorn in pitchers sides, and (was once) a threat on the base paths. His leadership in the clubhouse is irreplaceable and his consistent work ethic is one that not many players maintain.
When we look at this 2019 team and compare it to that of the 2016 team, on paper, their offense is essentially the same — with some additions and subtractions to complement the core. The pitching is a little different, with Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks being the only starters from that 2016 team, as they’ve added Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels and the (in)famous Yu Darvish. Their Bullpen is almost completely different, and currently pretty horrible, excluding the likes of Kyle Ryan, Brandon Kintzler, and Craig Kimbrel.
What does ‘Zo Have Left?
With Zobrist’s return now imminent I feel like everyone believes he is going to right the ship that seems to be tipping over ever so quickly. I honestly do not believe he will be the sole reason why the Cubs begin to win, go to the playoffs, and even birth another World Series appearance (uh, yes please!!!) Let’s face it, he is 38 years old and hasn’t played a game since April. Do we know if he kept up with baseball activities to stay in baseball shape? Will he be mentally sharp after such a long layoff? We all have seen how mentally checked-out Addison Russell was as he literally played himself out of the Majors (for now that is). Will Zobrist be able to be the guy we all know and love, our World Series MVP?
Regardless of ‘Zo’s performance upon return there are so many holes the Cubs need to patch that I’m just not sure they can before the now hard July 31st deadline, let alone have enough firepower for the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at the issues plaguing this team.
The starting nine in general have to start hitting up and down the line-up. You can’t have the core going MIA during a series that was recognized to be a key series for them down the stretch. According to Fangraphs the Cubs top batting leaders are Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward. This past series with the Milwaukee Brewers, they went a combined 9/59 with two walks and one HBP. If the Cubs want to win, those guys need to step up.
Kyle Schwarber can hit two home runs in a game every now and then but he is still hitting just .228 for the season. I say use him as a trade piece and acquire someone who can leadoff and has a higher than league batting average.
The Cubs rotation has been solid, especially since the All-Star break. Before the All-Star break Cubs starters were posting an above league average 4.38 ERA — a number that could’ve been better if not for Darvish’s shaky first half. With Hamels currently on the IL you would think the starter’s ERA would have worsened (since the All-Star break the league average is 4.55) but the Cubs starter’s have actually pitched to a sterling 3.23 era. With Hamels coming back soon, we have a more-than-solid 5 man rotation.
It All Comes Down to the Bullpen
If the Cubs are to consistently win games en route to another division title, and give themselves another shot at a World Series, they need to acquire a lethal left and right-handed reliever. You can not hope that Brandon Morrow will be ready, you can not hope that Pedro Strop will rediscover his fastball. Is Kyle Ryan really your answer? Derek Holland looked serviceable, Sunday’s 1-2-3 inning (including retiring Christian Yelich) providing hope, but the Cubs can ill-afford to rely on guys that are either unproven or looking to revitalize their careers.
The Cubs currently sport an ugly 4.36 ERA in the second half, and their glowing miscues from this past weekend in Milwaukee signify just how badly reinforcements are needed.
Ben Zobrist‘s return to the Cubs might very well be a shot-in-the-arm, both for the clubhouse and the fan base. Even if he returns to form, however, this roster as currently constructed has too many holes.
Not even vintage ‘Zo can provide everything the Cubs need.
Follow Nathan on Twitter @NateDotCom09