The Cubs consider Athletics' infielder Ben Zobrist to be "one of their biggest targets" heading into trade season, according to a report from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Wittenmyer notes that the Cubs will be buyers at the deadline and are also keeping an eye on the pitching market.
Zobrist, 34, has not yet been made available by the A's, due to general manager Billy Beane believing that his team may go on a run and spring back into contention into an open AL West race. The versatile former Ray is expected to be one of a handful of Athletics who may be available in advance of the July 31 trade deadline if the team is out of contention, along with lefty Scott Kazmir, first baseman Billy Butler and closer Tyler Clippard.
Wittenmyer notes that Zobrist is a favorite of manager Joe Maddon from their time spent together in Tampa, and that Zobrist would provide the Cubs' bench with an excellent depth piece that would allow Maddon to give rest to multiple starters throughout each week. The Cubs pursued Zobrist over the winter before he was traded to Oakland, but may not have had a strong chance at acquiring him from Tampa due to the Rays' pending tampering charges over Maddon leaving for Chicago.
Beane and Theo Epstein have matched up on a major summer deal before--Chicago sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland in exchange for a prospect package headlined by rookie infielder Addison Russell--so the clubs are familiar with each other's systems. It is interesting to note the role reversal in this year's talks compared to 2014, as the Cubs now seem to be preparing for a playoff run while the A's sit outside of contention, in a 180-degree flip from last year.
Wittenmyer adds that the Cubs are looking for relief help and are considered contenders for free-agent righty Rafael Soriano and D-Backs' southpaw Oliver Perez.