Can Jed Hoyer recreate continuity that bridges the 2016 championship with his "next great Cubs team" even after jettisoning the entire core of that team?
If so, part of the process may already be underway.
The Cubs president said he talked this summer with 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist about a baseball operations role, with an eye toward influencing the next competitive team he's trying to assemble, maybe as early as next spring.
“We haven’t talked about a specific role, but I’d love to have him around spring training and have him around the guys,” Hoyer said, “because I do think it is a perspective and a career, and a work ethic, that I think is unique.”
Zobrist, a Eureka native who last played in 2019 after missing much of that season on the restricted list for a family-related personal leave, has maintained ties with several Cubs officials and former teammates, including a limited role with the business operation — “alumni-type stuff,” Hoyer said.
“If that expands to doing stuff for us, the that’d be great. I’d welcome it,” Hoyer said of the former super-utility player who earned an All-Star start at second base for the 2016 Cubs.
“He’s got a real fresh perspective on baseball, for a lot of reasons,” Hoyer added. “His versatility gives him a really fresh perspective. He was a little bit of an older prospect, a little bit more self-made than some guys; that’s a really nice perspective. And he was a switch-hitter. And I don’t think the game came as easy to him as some; he really grinded and prepared unbelievably well.
“I think there’s a lot of value in having him around.”
Maybe especially with precious few others still around from the 2016 championship just six years later?
When Willson Contreras departs as a free agent this winter, as expected, and Jason Heyward is released, as Hoyer has said is the plan, that will leave only Kyle Hendricks on the roster from the 2016 team.
Not counting manager David Ross, a backup catcher and key clubhouse figure for that team.
Zobrist, 41, played the final four years of a 14-year career for the Cubs, signing a four-year, $56 million free agent deal and reuniting with his former Rays manager Joe Maddon after helping the Royals win the 2015 World Series following a deadline trade from the A’s that year.
He hit .269 with a .774 OPS as a Cub but played only 47 games in 2019, leaving the team in May to deal with what became well publicized marital problems, before returning in September.
He never officially announced his retirement.