The Kansas City Royals are hopeful of retaining Ben Zobrist, more so than they are of keeping Alex Gordon or Johnny Cueto, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports:
#Royals officials privately more optimistic about keeping Ben Zobrist than teams' other big free agents -- Gordon or Cueto.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 10, 2015
A 34-year-old, Zobrist would require less of a long-term commitment from Kansas City than would the younger Gordon or Cueto. He also provides positional flexibility, having played second base, third base and both corner outfield spots in 2015.
After joining the Royals at the trade deadline, Zobrist hit .284/.364/.453 with seven home runs in 59 games. Combined with his numbers from Oakland, he hit .276/.359/.450 with 13 home runs in 467 at bats in 2015. He also hit .303/.365/.515 for the Royals in the postseason.
At the ages of 31 and 29, respectively, Gordon and Cueto will be two of the most sought-after players on the free agent market and both are projected to receive nine-figure deals by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. Heyman predicts a four-year, $60 million deal for Zobrist, which would be more in Kansas City's price range.
Gordon, a three-time All-Star, played just 104 games in 2015, hitting .271/.377/.432 with 13 home runs in 354 at bats. He turned down a player option for 2016 that would have paid him $12.5 million and looks to make substantially more than that on the open market.
Like Zobrist, Cueto joined Kansas City at the trade deadline. He struggled with the Royals down the stretch, posting a 4.76 ERA in 81⅓ innings but came through when the team needed him, allowing just one run on two hits in a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series.
If Kansas City retains only one of the three, Zobrist is likely the most realistic option.