Cubs A Week From Knowing Ben Zobrist's Status

"We're not counting on this at all," Theo Epstein says of a possible return.

Bernstein & McKnight Show
July 19, 2019 - 11:40 am

(670 The Score) The clock is ticking on infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist having the chance to make a return to the Cubs this season.

The Cubs and Zobrist will decide in about a week or so whether to ramp his baseball activities back up for a possible return to the team or shut him down for the entire season. Zobrist has been away from the team since early May on a personal leave of absence as he goes through divorce proceedings.

While the Cubs have left the door open for a return, they need him fully committed to baseball if he's to come back, as they're in a playoff push and hold championship aspirations.

"We're going to know something more in about a week, and that will be when it's time to ultimately make a decision," president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said on the Bernstein & McKnight Show on Friday. "Because he'll need to really ramp up baseball activities or not. It's still at the point where we're not counting on this at all. Ben's priority through this entire ordeal has been his family and has to remain so. So we are not operating under the strong assumption that he's going to be back and that he's somebody we can rely upon.

"But we do know that if it gets to a point where he tells us -- and we should know this soon -- that he's going to give it his best effort and that he can balance his priorities in a way that allows him to put his best foot forward and come back and help us, that he's going to give it everything he has. He knows what it takes to push his body and he knows what it takes to perform at a high level at this point in his career. And if he's able in his life to give that to us, I know he's going to. That's a decision that only he can make based on things going on in his life. He'll let us know soon."

Zobrist, 38, was the MVP of the World Series when the Cubs broke their 108-year championship drought in 2016. He struggled earlier this season before stepping away, hitting .241 with a .596 OPS and just one extra-base hit in 83 at-bats. His .253 slugging percentage is the lowest of any position player on the team.

Epstein's words and tone Friday was in contrast to his demeanor regarding Zobrist on July 3, when he said he expected Zobrist to return at some point.

"We're approaching the point where he'll be all in or it'll be ruled out through mutual agreement because there's a requisite amount of time where he'll have to get back into real, full baseball activities and play a bunch of minor league games," Epstein said. "So we're getting there. He's well aware of that, and we are too. Like I said, we're not counting on it. We're not going to plan our roster around it, but if he does give us that word that things will allow him to give a full commitment and come back, then you look into September and hopefully October and that's an addition that can only help us in a variety of ways."