Speculation has ramped up in recent days about the future of Chicago Cubs infielder Ben Zobrist, but those close to the 2016 World Series MVP aren’t pressing him for answers about what lies ahead.
Zobrist, who has not appeared in a game since May 7, has been subject of a slew of rumors ever since he was placed on the restricted list to attend to a personal matter. Zobrist and his wife Julianna both filed for divorce in mid-May, with the baseball star citing “inappropriate marital conduct” in his Tennessee filing.
The renewed speculation comes after reports emerged that the Cubs had signed closer Craig Kimbrel to a three-year, $43 million contract on Wednesday. That deal would put the Cubs over the luxury tax if Zobrist were still on the roster, but according to reports, the team doesn’t have to pay the infielder while he is on the restricted list.
That savings could theoretically go toward Kimbrel’s contract, but the situation remains unclear as the team allows Zobrist the space he needs to work through the challenges he’s facing in his personal life.
“We have to be prepared mentally that he’s not going to (be back,) but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to,” manager Joe Maddon told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s all honorable on his side, so whatever he decides to do we’re definitely going to be on board with. Of course we’d love to have him back, but I have no idea how that’s going to play out.”
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein sounded similar notes in his press availability, emphasizing that Zobrist can take all the time that he needs.
“I don’t think he owes us anything,” he told media members this week.
Epstein is expected to talk to the Bernstein and McKnight Show on 670 the Score on Friday morning, and it’s expected that he will address questions about Kimbrel’s contract, and could provide new insight into the situation with Zobrist.
The infielder is in the final season of his contract with the Cubs, which he signed before the 2016 season. In four seasons with the Cubs, Zobrist has hit 39 home runs, driven in 194 RBI, and batted .269.
Zobrist, who was born and raised in Illinois, cemented his place in Cubs lore during the 2016 World Series, as he drove in the go-ahead run in extra innings of Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians. As a result, Zobrist was awarded World Series MVP honors as the Cubs captured their first title in 108 years.