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Rays trade rumors: Ben Zobrist could be dealt if Tampa Bay continues to struggle

Zobrist is banged up at the moment, but if the Rays continue to bring up the rear in the AL East, they could look to trade him for prospects.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have put together a surprising season so far in 2014 -- in a bad way.

Many expected them to be one of the best teams in baseball this season, but that has not been the case due to injuries and a struggling pitching staff. Right now, they are 18-23. They can still turn things around, but if their season continues to be a bummer, they might think about trading that guy you've always expected them to trade.

We're both thinking about Ben Zobrist, right?

Grantland's Jonah Keri broke down the team's "horrific start," concluding that the Rays could look to trade Zobrist if things don't get better.

Several teams would be interested, to put it mildly, presuming he returns quickly from the dislocated thumb he suffered in Wednesday's game -- the duration of the recovery, if any, had yet to be determined as of this morning.

Zobrist, 32, can play several position, he gets on base, can swipe a few, and he has posted a .446 slugging percentage since 2008 -- oh, and he basically plays for free.

Zobrist will earn $7 million this season and has a team option in his contract for 2015 at $7.5 million. For a little contrast, three different teams will pay (the recently designated for assignment) Heath Bell a total of $10 million this year -- including the Rays.

A year-and-a-half of Zobrist for about that amount would be an extremely valuable commodity for the Rays to shop. He can fill holes in the outfield for clubs like Detroit, Seattle, and Washington ... or he could help a team that could use an impactful second baseman -- like Atlanta, St. Louis, or Colorado.

Just about any team in contention could make use of a guy like Zobrist, who has been among the most productive players in baseball since becoming a regular in 2009. He is widely considered one of the most underrated players in the game, which typically results in a player being overrated after a certain period of time, but that is not the case with Zobrist.

Since 2009, only Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria have posted a higher fWAR.

If Tampa Bay looks to shop him, they could receive at least one handful of prospects in return.