When the Chicago Cubs signed closer Craig Kimbrel, it was widely assumed that infielder Ben Zobrist’s time on the North Side was done, but Theo Epstein weighed in on the situation Thursday.
Epstein, speaking to reporters prior to the Cubs’ game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, said that the team has not ruled out a return from Zobrist, who has been on the restricted list since May as he goes through a divorce with his wife Julianna Zobrist.
“The possibility of a return is there for him later in the season,” Epstein said to reporters, including The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney. “We’ll see how things evolve. We’d all love to see him back here, and he’d love to come back, so we’ll see if that can come to fruition.”
Zobrist, who is in the final year of his contract with the Cubs, is not being paid while on the restricted list, and that money is at least in part going to Kimbrel after he signed a three-year deal with the Cubs earlier this month.
If Zobrist comes back, the Cubs will have to begin paying him again, and the team’s payroll will once again bump up against the upper limit of the luxury tax scale, opening the door to potential penalties for next season.