Ben Zobrist to the Cubs on Four-Year Deal

The Cubs have reportedly signed Ben Zobrist to a four-year deal worth $56 million. That’s definitively not an $80 million deal, but at the behest of agents, all sorts of silly numbers get thrown around in the rumor mill. This number makes a lot more sense. In fact, the deal seems to be paying for floor.

Take all the worst assumptions for the Zobrist deal — assume that wins are cheaper than they’ve seemed so far, and that the player will age poorly, for example — and the deal still looks decent for the Cubs. Take a look:

Ben Zobrist’s Contract Estimate — 4 yr / $54.1 M
Year Age WAR $/WAR Est. Value
2016 34 3.1 $6.5 M $20.2 M
2017 35 2.4 $6.8 M $16.0 M
2018 36 1.6 $7.2 M $11.5 M
2019 37 0.9 $7.5 M $6.4 M
Totals 7.9 $54.1 M
Value: $6.5M/WAR with 5.0% inflation
Aging Curve: +0.25 WAR/yr (18-27), -0.25 WAR/yr (28-30),-0.75 WAR/yr (31-37),-1 WAR/yr (> 37)

The last year looks bad! He might be close to a replacement level player at 37, struggling to stay on the field wether it’s due to injury or poor play or lack of a position. The last would be ironic for the super-utility master, but it could happen if the range decreases more and the power dissipates again like it did in the first half during his injury.

But the deal would still be okay. He’d do enough before that happened to make it worthwhile, even when we make assumptions that make the deal look worse. Maybe it’s not a surprise, then, that the FanGraphs crowd (4/$48m), MLBTraderumors (4/$56m), and Dave Cameron (4/$63m) were all fairly close to how the deal ended up.

As Cameron pointed out, Zobrist was much better once he came back from the knee injury. If the Cubs got that Zobrist, and the market is actually $8 million for a win, and Zobrist ages normally, then they might have gotten a $20 million value. And now they might be able to pull that trade with the Yankees, using an infielder for an outfielder.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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6 years ago

If the Cubs don’t win in the next 2 years, I will truly believe that there is a curse.