The Mets have inquired about 35-year-old free agent Ben Zobrist, according to several reports.. The veteran switch-hitter, primarily a second baseman, spent the first half of 2015 with the Oakland Athletics before being traded in late July to the Kansas City Royals. Zobrist proved to be one of the most meaningful trade-deadline acquisitions, hitting .284 with Kansas City in the regular season and .303 with eight doubles and two home runs in the postseason en route to a World Series championship.
Zobrist was a sixth-round draft pick by the Houston Astros in 2004 out of Dallas Baptist University and was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in July 2006. He spent the first nine years of his major league career with the Rays playing mostly second base and right field but dabbling around the diamond, hitting .264/.354/.429 with a 117 OPS+. Zobrist was traded from Tampa with Yunel Escobar to Oakland for catcher John Jaso,minor leaguers Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, and cash in January 2015.
The 2015 season started inauspiciously for Zobrist, who had never played in fewer than 146 games in a full season in the majors. The 34-year-old hit the 15-day disabled list in late April with a torn meniscus in his left knee and was out until May 26. After his return, he hit .268/.354/.447, in line with career averages, before his trade to Kansas City in late July. Zobrist slid seamlessly into the Royals' lineup, adapting well to the team's high-contact identity. He enjoyed a career-best strikeout rate in 2015 (10.5%), and his .359 on-base percentage was his best since 2012.
Despite his knee injury and age, Zobrist's consistency at the plate, versatility as a switch-hitter, and ability to field multiple positions all work in his favor. He won't astound with the glove anymore (-7 defensive runs saved as a second baseman in 2015, slightly worse than Daniel Murphy's -6 DRS), but provides enough production at the plate that most teams—including the Mets—would gladly accept the trade-off.
With free agent Murphy having turned down his qualifying offer, the Mets are "very serious" about going forward with 21-year-old Dilson Herrera as their starting second baseman in 2016. They have, however, reportedly also reached out to Zobrist's agent. The Mets could do well to bolster a middle infield that figures to include Herrera, Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores, and Matt Reynolds, especially after learningin the World Series the value of a fundamentally sound glove at second base
But New York is just one of many teams who will likely court Zobrist. Fangraphs' Dave Cameron projects the Dodgers to sign Zobrist to a four-year, $76 million deal. It would be uncharacteristic for the Mets to offer that sort of length and salary to a player entering his age-35 season, as the last similar free agent contract they doled out was Curtis Granderson's four-year, $60 million deal in 2014; Granderson, however, was only 33, two years younger than Zobrist.
Still, Zobrist would be a nice fit, shoring up the middle infield and slotting into the outfield when necessary, but will likely come at a cost the Mets aren't willing to pay.