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Dock of the Rays: who could afford a Ben Zobrist trade?

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"Irresponsibly Speculating on the Return From a Hypothetical Ben Zobrist Trade"

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last week during the Winter Meetings, we saw the market set the bar pretty high for a Ben Zobrist trade, with Andrew Friedman's Dodgers trading the second best left handed pitching prospect in the game for Howie Kendrick, one-for-one.

Zobrist is worth more than Kendrick at the plate, on the field, and via contract - each are on a one-year deal, but Zobrist is two million cheaper. If Andrew Heaney is what it takes to land a lesser-Zorilla, we should be salivating at a possible trade of the real thing, either this off-season, or mid-year if the Rays are out of contention.

Wondering who could make a competitive offer, DOTR went to work and identified teams that could possibly trade for Zobrist through a mix of WAR projections at the positions Zobrist regularly starts (2B, RF, LF) and some intuition, then for each suitor pulled a full list of prospect values and categories according to Chris St. John's excellent JAVIER projection system.

With a full listing of prospects and their trajectories, DOTR then evaluated the case for each team to put together a deal, from a need and then prospect perspective.

Take the evaluation of the Cubs. It begins with a well-reasoned argument on why Zobrist fits Chicago, which leans into his positional versatility. Let's pick up the conversation there:

The Cubs have been busy turning an also-ran into a real competitor, but could probably use an upgrade in LF over Chris Coghlan. Additionally, Ben gives flexibility in the event that Baez isn't working out at 2B or Soler gets hurt again out in RF, and obviously there's the Maddon connection.

Soft skills are often poo-poo'd by me and other analysts, but Ben would certainly be able to provide a veteran perspective to a locker room that is going to be big on talent, but short on emotional stability.

The Cubs are another team that could pretty easily extend Ben and I think he would be amenable to that with his former manager calling the shots.

Good lawds.

Let me interrupt, as a reminder. What you're looking at are the positions, JAVIER scores, and JAVIER categories for each of the top prospects in the best farm system in the game. Carry on.

There's a reason that Joltin' Joe wanted to go play with the kids. Bryant is one of the most highly regarded prospects of all time, no hyperbole, by JAVIER.

Soler and Russell are equally untouchable, but then we start to get into the part of the system that features good prospects that may have more value to the Cubs as a trade chip due to roster constraints.

Edwards looks like a nice little arm and Schwarber is going to be a menace even though he's unlikely to stay at catcher. Torres could be an upside play that's pretty far away.

Whatever your appetite the Cubs have a cook in the kitchen ready to deliver sweet morsels and it doesn't stop there as they also have some good options that have lost their prospect status.

Baez probably isn't going anywhere, but if the Cubs sign another high profile pitcher they may look to sell a touch high on Hendricks. Heck, even Hector Rondon could have a role here as another elite power arm to pair with Jake & the Box, though I'd want something like Caratini or Torres thrown into that deal, as well.

The Cubs look like a really strong fit for both teams.

That they do, and calling out these guys is what's tantalizing. Andrew Heaney notches a 3.26 (borderline Elite) score from JAVIER, so if you'd like to continue using him as a baseline, you could add up the scores to find a comparable deal, as a rule of thumb.

Why is this not an exact science? Stephen Strasburg is a 3.14, Jake Odorizzi is a 3.19, and Dan Haren a 4.36 - JAVIER is a tool to gauge prospect potential, using the entire swath of prospects (hitters and pitchers) and working out standard deviations and bust-risks and expectations. Some will rise above and some will fall below.

So that's the Cubs' take, but there's cases in the write up for ten other teams and you should strongly consider reading everything discussed, particularly if we're going to discuss names instead of just, "yeah the Nationals seem interested, but the Rays are asking a lot."

Take a look at the full write up at Dock of the Rays, then come back here and discuss. There's a lot to soak in, but a lot of interesting ideas as well.