To say that Omar Infante has struggled this season for the Kansas City Royals would be a bit of an understatement. Playing through an elbow injury that he plans on having surgery on in the offseason, Infante has produced a lackluster .212/.221/.293 batting line heading into last night’s action. His .515 OPS is last among the 22 qualifying second basemen, trailing the corpse of Chase Utley by 45 points. It has been a truly rough season for the Royals second baseman, who is obviously not healthy.
Clearly, the Royals need to do something at second base. However, it is just as clear that, for whatever reason, the Royals do not trust Christian Colon, as he has made just four appearances since May 10th. If the Royals do decide that they need to find an upgrade at second, it is likely to come via the trade market.
The problem is, there is not exactly a lot available at second base. In fact, in Jon Heyman’s top 40 trade candidates, only three possible second basemen are listed: Utley, Aaron Hill and Ben Zobrist. Utley would conceivably be available, but he has a no trade clause and is not exactly an upgrade. Hill is earning $12 Million this year, and his .229/.282/.336 batting line is hardly inspiring.
This would make Zobrist by far the best option available for teams in need of a second baseman. Even if his numbers this season are underwhelming as well, as Zobrist has posted a .208/.289/.347 batting line. However, even with those struggles, Zobrist has an 80 OPS+, the highest amount of any of these options. As quite a few players on the Oakland A’s are struggling this season, it could be that Zobrist is just caught in the same batting malaise infecting the A’s offense.
Prior to this season, Zobrist had been one of the better players in baseball. Valued for his versatility, as he played over ten games at six different positions from 2009 through 2014, Zobrist was also quite the force with the bat. In those six years, he averaged a .270/.364/.437 batting line with 16 home runs and 16 steals. He was one of the more valuable players in baseball, ranking among the leaders in Wins Above Replacement during that time.
Even with Zobrist’s own struggles this season, he could be an attractive piece for the Kansas City Royals. He would provide an element of pop that has been sorely lacking from the Royals second basemen this season, and would even add some patience to a lineup that still has a tendency to be overly aggressive at times. Having a professional hitter like Zobrist, coupled with Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon, could help take the Royals offense to that next level.
Given the lack of options available at second base, the Royals are likely to have a bit of competition for super utility man. Teams like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels, among other contending clubs, would likely be interested in acquiring Zobrist. Likewise, if a team has a possible hole at short or in right, Zobrist would once again be an attractive trade chip, expanding the list of teams that could get into a bidding war for his services.
If Ben Zobrist can get on track, perhaps with a change of scenery, he could be the missing piece for the Kansas City Royals lineup. The problem is that the Royals will likely have quite a bit of competition for his services at the trade deadline. That may push his price tag beyond what Dayton Moore and the front office would find acceptable.