Ben Zobrist’s Pending Return May Have Impacted Cubs’ Pursuit of Eric Sogard

Among several names connected to the Cubs in trade rumors over the last couple weeks, one of the most frequent and prominent was Eric Sogard. Not only is the 32-year-old utility infielder having a career year at the plate, but he’s on a league-minimum contract that expires at the end of the season.

For a team that has publicly copped to lacking both veteran leadership and available funds, Sogard could have been a perfect fit. He’s basically a younger, cheaper Ben Zobrist, just without the previous track record of offensive production. In fact, Sogard’s season slash of .300/.363/.477 with a .355 wOBA and 123 wRC+ is almost identical to the .305/.378/.440 with .355 and 123 Zobrist posted last season.

But rather than try to replace Zobrist with Sogard, the Cubs may be replacing him with himself. Zobrist, that is. Theo Epstein said prior to Friday’s game in Milwaukee that the 38-year-old has indicated a desire to return and could begin a minor-league rehab assignment as soon as next weekend. Even though his ability to get back to that 2018 form is highly doubtful, the mere possibility of it may have given the Cubs pause when it came to pursuing Sogard.

As first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN, the Rays ended up landing the coveted infielder for a return that as of press time was reported to be just a single prospect. Even without knowing which prospect it is, that seems like a price the Cubs could have met or exceeded. And based on a report from’s Jon Morosi, they had a chance to do just that.

Zobrist potentially coming back probably played a big role in their unwillingness to spend on Sogard, as did their experience with Daniel Descalso. After all, he was also a 32-year-old infielder coming off of a career-best offensive season when the Cubs signed him this winter. Descalso actually started out pretty well and was posting excellent clutch numbers before an ankle injury derailed his season in early May and eventually led to an IL stint…nearly three months later.

It may be just lip service, but the Cubs say they believe Descalso can get back to his career numbers. And by that, they most certainly mean his historical production with runners in scoring position, since his primary stat line leaves a lot to be desired.

What we saw Sunday with Sogard may also be a template for the Cubs’ dealings elsewhere on the trade market. Promoting Ian Happ when they did could well mean they’re not going big on an outfield bat, and they picked up Derek Holland as a lefty specialist out of the ‘pen. While they could still make additions to strengthen the roster at the deadline, it’s looking more and more like those will take place at the periphery.

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