After the devastating injury to Brandon Phillips, the Cincinnati Reds are in need of added depth to bolster their thin roster. Such a move is easier said than done, as the Reds will only need a player to fill in for Phillips throughout 2014, not beyond. While there have been many names thrown around (Gordan Beckham, Martin Prado), the overall best fit for the Reds would be Ben Zobrist of the struggling Tampa Bay Rays.
With the Rays 10 games under .500 and nine and a half games out of first place in the AL East, one would assume that they will be open to trade possibilities regarding their players around the deadline. The reason Zobrist makes the most sense for the Reds comes down to just two main reasons: money and years left on his contract.
In 2010, Zobrist signed a four-year, $18 million extension that included $7 million options in 2014 and 2015 (or a $500,000 buyout in 2015). The Reds would only be on the hook for about $3.5 million for the remainder of 2014, and could save money by purchasing the $500,000 buyout in 2015 if they do not see the need to keep Zobrist on the roster. However, if Zobrist becomes a solid contributor, there is the possibility that he could play left field as well when Phillips returns, as Zobrist does have some experience in the outfield.
At 33 years old, Zobrist is no longer in the prime of his career, meaning he wouldn’t command a large return in a trade from the Reds. While he is a career .263 hitter, Zobrist has shown the ability to reach base often with a lifetime OBP of .354 — something the Reds could use in their depleted lineup. A few years ago, Zobrist was one of the few power-hitting second basemen in the league (three seasons of 20-plus home runs in the last five years), but such power had diminished recently. In 2014, Zobrist is hitting .266 with six home runs, 21 RBIs, a .352 OBP and .406 SLG.
For the Reds, Zobrist would be a step down from Phillips (as would anyone who they can realistically replace him with), but he would be a solid replacement nonetheless. It isn’t often that a team can replace one of their staples with an affordable, productive player who won’t result in cleaning out the farm system. Zobrist might not be a “sexy” name, but he is the type of player who could fit in perfectly with the Reds as they push towards the playoffs.