Acquired __-S Ben Zobrist and cash considerations from the Athletics in exchange for LHP Sean Manaea and RHP Aaron Brooks. [7/28]
It's easy to call Zobrist a perfect fit for the Royals, but the truth is he would've been a perfect fit on nearly any contender. Such is the case whenever a player is as versatile and well-rounded as Zobrist is.
At the plate Zobrist commands the strike zone well and seldom gives away at-bats. When he swings, he shows better bat-to-ball skills than might be expected from a player with his size and tendency to work deep into counts, which helps explain why he's walked more this season than he's struck out. Zobrist isn't making empty contact, either: His power production has rebounded in 2015, leaving him with an above-average ISO for the first time since 2012. Zobrist is, then, the rare player who can hit leadoff or cleanup without changing a thing about his approach.
In addition to the offensive versatility created by his skill set and switch-hitting, Zobrist remains a flexible defender who can bounce between the infield and outfield. Because he didn't become an every-day player until he was 28, he's older than he's perceived to be, having turned 34 in May. Naturally, Zobrist has slowed since his younger days, costing him value on the basepaths and in the field. Consider it a telling (and positive) sign that the biggest cons in his game are that he's 1) falling victim to aging in his mid-30s and 2) months away from free agency; he's some player.
So how might Ned Yost use him? Early indications are that Zobrist will begin his K.C. career as an outfielder. The plan could be to have Zobrist serve in left field until Alex Gordon returns, at which point he can slide into his more familiar rover role. The Royals could use some help at second base and in right field, where Omar Infante and Alex Rios have disappointed, and it just so happens Zobrist has plenty of experience at both positions.
Of course, no matter where Zobrist plays, his presence alone makes the Royals a better, more dangerous team, and likely the favorites to repeat as American League champions. –R.J. Anderson
Acquired LHP Sean Manaea and RHP Aaron Brooks from the Royals in exchange for __-S Ben Zobrist and cash considerations. [7/28]
The Royals selected Manaea, a big-framed lefty, in the first round in 2013 out of Indiana State. While he has three potentially average or plus pitches, injuries and inconsistencies with command have hindered his progression. At his best, Manaea is working his low-to-mid-90s fastball with life and boring action, along with deception. He also throws a potential plus slider with short, hard bite; it is a bat-missing offering. The changeup has moderate arm-side run along with tumbling action, but Manaea’s release point has been inconsistent. Some within the industry believe Manaea may ultimately end up in the bullpen, but there are ingredients of a mid-rotation starter if it all clicks, and if he stays healthy. –Tucker Blair
Brooks is pretty much the raison d'etre for the term “up-and-down arm": a pitcher with a purpose in an organization but one who shouldn’t be relied on for a significant role. He makes heavy use of a sinking fastball and change that are both average, with the fastball sitting 90–92. He’ll also show a hard breaking ball between a curve and slider, but it’s below average and doesn’t offer the bite or spin to be a swing-and-miss pitch. He throws strikes with all three and he’s generally within the margin of error in terms of hitting his spots. You could get away with Brooks as a fifth starter, but you can certainly do better. –Christopher Crawford