Zobrist signing may scuttle Rays' talks with Cubs

Ben Zobrist, who became an All-Star with the Rays, joins the Cubs — and former manager Joe Maddon — on a four-year, $56 million contract.
Ben Zobrist, who became an All-Star with the Rays, joins the Cubs — and former manager Joe Maddon — on a four-year, $56 million contract.
Published Dec. 9, 2015

NASHVILLE — Former Rays All-Star Ben Zobrist found a new home with the Chicago Cubs. And that may have cost his old team a chance to add a key part.

Zobrist's surprising deal — for a lofty $56 million over four years — now seems to make it less likely the Cubs will part with INF Javier Baez, who was the Rays' primary target as they considered adding an impact bat.

After finalizing the deal with Zobrist, who was supposedly deciding among the Mets, Giants and Nationals, the Cubs quickly traded their incumbent 2B Starlin Castro to the Yankees and got back the starting pitcher they were looking for in RHP Adam Warren.

Where that leaves the Rays remains to be seen. Their talks with the Cubs seemed centered on RHP Alex Cobb but appeared to slow as both teams apparently wanted more back. As both also looked elsewhere, the Cubs obviously pursued other options.

Baez could still be available. The Cubs still have infield depth, picking up SS Brendan Ryan in the Yankees deal, and could use more arms.

Or the Rays can look elsewhere for a bat, with Texas' Joey Gallo among the names that have also been discussed.

The key is that the Rays still have pitching to trade — in starters Cobb (who is recovering from Tommy John surgery), Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly, and also in relievers Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee.

And they may have even more value in a deal based on the haul of talent Atlanta got Tuesday for RHP Shelby Miller from Arizona — OF Ender Inciarte, RHP prospect Aaron Blair and SS prospect and top '15 pick Dansby Swanson.

Plus, the Rays consider themselves in a position of power as they don't have to make a deal, executive VP Erik Neander reiterating Tuesday that they are content with the roster they have.

SPECIAL K: CF Kevin Kiermaier made a quick trip from Tampa to Nashville to receive his Esurance award for being voted the game's top defensive player. Last month he went to New York to be presented the Gold and Platinum glove awards. "It's crazy how my life is unfolding and how all this is happening," he said. "These awards mean the world to me, and I couldn't be more proud of how everything has happened."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: OF Tyler Goeddel is among three players the Phillies are considering taking with the top pick in Thursday's Rule 5 draft of minor-leaguers not on 40-man rosters. Goeddel and OF Joey Rickard were considered but not added to the roster last month. … Furthering the idea that the Rays might talk about a long-term deal with LHP Blake Snell before he gets to the majors: He has the same agent (Matt Sosnick) as Moore, who signed one in December 2011 after spending just 17 days in the majors that season. … Ex-Rays OF Joey Butler was welcomed to his new team with a tweet from RHP Carlos Carrasco, whose July no-hit bid he broke up with a two-out hit: "Welcome to the @Indians, Joey — I forgive you for that single in the 9th!" … Former Devil Ray Greg Norton was on site seeking a minor-league coaching job.

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AROUND THE MAJORS: With Zobrist, 34, reuniting with former manager Joe Maddon in Chicago, the Mets may look to fill an infield spot by signing ex-Rays SS Asdrubal Cabrera, who was a Plan B option. … Miller was one of the hottest commodities on the trade market, and the D'backs added him after previously signing top free agent Zack Greinke. … C Tyler Flowers, non-tendered by the White Sox, joined the Braves. … There continue to be rumbles of the Marlins trading ace RHP Jose Fernandez, the Alonso High product … Police say there was "insufficient evidence" to charge Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in a domestic disturbance incident with his girlfriend at his Davie home and closed the investigation, but the issue has delayed a proposed trade to the Dodgers as MLB investigates.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.