I also want to thank his agents, Scotty Pucino and Bobby Witt. Thanks for all the help on this.
Ben is a player we have coveted for a long time. We tried to trade for him several times and when he became a free agent. Obviously he was a huge priority for us.
We obviously had to make some transactions to make it happen. But we think it's well worth it. He's a player that fits our roster incredibly well, both offensively and defensively, and perhaps even most importantly, makeup-wise.
His long-time manager, Joe Maddon, swears by him, felt like he was a perfect player to bring into our mix.
So without further ado, the Cubs are incredibly excited to add Ben Zobrist to our fold.
BEN ZOBRIST: Thank you, guys, for being here. We couldn't be more thrilled to sign with the Chicago Cubs. I just want to thank a few people first.
First, I need to thank my wife, Julianna, for just her faithful support, bringing our family on the road all these years and always making it fun, no matter how far we're traveling. Now we get to be a little closer to home, so we're excited about that. Thank you.
Want to say thank you to Bobby Witt and Scotty Pucino and Octagon, my management. These guys have supported us over the years and helped make this happen. So I couldn't be more thankful for you guys, too, at this moment.
I'm thankful to the Cubs family for making this happen. And I think the process, we didn't really know what was going to happen, even until yesterday for sure. And finally kind of getting the call and saying do you want to do this, and knowing for sure that that's where we wanted to be, it was a slam dunk for us. Just super thrilled and excited to be a Chicago Cub.
I want to say -- I want to say thank you to all the fans who have supported my wife, supported me over the years through various teams -- Tampa Bay, Oakland, Kansas City, now in Chicago here. There have been people that have followed us all around. All my friends and family this last year have bought their fair share of gear with the different teams we've been on, so excited that now they are going to buy some Chicago Cubs gear here.
And I just want to say thank you to God. This is a process that our faith is really important to us and a process that we prayed through. To the best of our ability -- I mean, there was so many good teams to choose from. We had some great options out there, some really great teams, and I don't think there was a wrong choice for us.
But in the end, our heart wanted to be in Chicago as a family. Wanted to play for this team, wanted to play for Joe Maddon again, and I want to win a championship as a Chicago Cub. That's my one goal the next four years is we've got to win a championship and bring a World Series trophy back to Chicago.
I'm just thrilled for the opportunity. I can't wait to get to know my teammates more and work together and do what has been done for a long time. It's overdo, so I'm excited to be part of this.
Q. How seriously did you consider the Mets and what was the tipping point for going to the Cubs instead?
A. I was very serious about going there. I was serious about going to every place that I've looked at. I think in the end, the main thing that we talked about kind of at the beginning of the process that was going to be important is proximity to here, where we live, proximity to my family. I grew up in Illinois, my wife's family, all those things.
We didn't know if we were going to ever get that choice throughout the process. So we seriously considered all the other options. We could have gone East Coast, West Coast. But I think in the end, this was the one that really motivated me the most, as well, knowing the opportunity to win a championship here in Chicago, right now, that's the main motivation for me.
That was kind of -- those things all put together is why we ended up here.
Q. The game has trended younger, and Cubs invested you at an older age. What is it about yourself that you think you can maintain a high level as you get up into your 30s?
A. I think I'm at a place in my career where I know myself pretty well. I know what I need to do to prepare myself, and I try to do the best I can to take care of my body and prolong my peak years as a baseball player.
So knowing that, I focused on that. I think any injuries I've had have been injuries that you can easily come back from, and I feel really good about the physical stuff that I had yesterday done and what the orthopedist and the doctors told me about what kind of condition they see me in, as well.
I think with all that stuff combined, I think that I can be a really productive Major League player for the next few years. I think it's also going to help to kind of find a home a little bit more on the diamond. We'll talk more about that as time goes on, but I know Joe loves to move us around.
For me, it's about getting reps and making sure that I'm prepared to go other places. As I get older, I just need to continue to make sure I'm staying in peak shape and taking care of my body the best I can.
Q. Did you need to trade Starlin Castro in order for the financial room to sign Ben and to convince Ben there was a spot for him?
JED HOYER: It was much less about the financial part than it was -- as Ben just said, it was really important for Ben to have a spot on the diamond. We were intrigued by the possibility of having him and being able to move him around the diamond, and I think Joe still will.
But it was important to him to have a position, and so being able to have second base as a position for him was something that we worked to provide for him, and that was a big part of it. So the motivation was more positional than it was financial.
Q. Ben, you referenced hoping to find a position now if you can convince Joe. Looking back, how much do you think your usage as the, quote/unquote, super U guy during your Rays days led to your development and your stature to be able to get this kind of contract in the game?
BEN ZOBRIST: I think it was really important in the whole process, being both an infielder and an outfielder opened up my market as a player to be able to go to a lot of different places.
I told them in the process, I said, hey, I'm willing to play the outfield, too. It's not that I want to be only a second baseman or one spot. I said, I will move around. And I think that certainly it plays a part in my value to a team.
And Joe, I have Joe and I think Tampa Bay to really thank for that, going back to my first few years in Tampa Bay when I figured out how to hit a little at this level.
We had Bartlett at shortstop, and there wasn't really a clear spot for me. It was let's find a way to get him in there. It ended up being right field for a while. I think to me, understanding how that can help a team, naturally makes me a National League player, as well.
And so I was also excited to come to the National League for that fact to know that, hey, when there's switches that happen in the middle of the game, that's what I'm made for. That's the way God made me as a player. I'm excited to be on a team where I know that can be put to use at the same time.
Q. Why is it so difficult with the teammates you've had over the years and the mentality to do what you've done so well at so many positions; have you talked to other players about it and what mentality does it take to do that as competently as you have?
BEN ZOBRIST: Well, I think you have to have a mind-set of just being willing to do it, first off. I think a lot of guys, it's out of the comfort zone, especially when you first start doing it. And most guys have grown up playing one position or been a prospect at one position.
So they come to the Big Leagues and they are like, this is what I do. Then they are getting put out of their comfort zone at the Big League level, it's tough to do, and I think you have to be willing to do that. I also think a lot more guys can do it if they just put their mind to it. And you're seeing that across the game, really.
Joe kind of coined the phrase "super utility," and there are a lot more guys around the league that are doing it, and understanding the benefit it can have to both the team and their career, as well. So it's becoming more of a position.
Q. How did the timing on this come down for you? I'm thinking there was some patience involved, you were told to kind of wait for this to happen. And how hard was that given you had other offers on the table?
BEN ZOBRIST: Well, the timing was really important in the whole process. I wasn't told to wait. I would say I was told: This is what we're trying to do and we don't know if we're going to be able to do it. But I knew that that's what they were trying to do in the process, and in the meantime, I had to prepare for signing somewhere else.
So that's what I was doing. I was doing my due diligence and I was looking at teams that I didn't know a lot about but I knew that they had good teams. In the end, when this came across the table, and it actually happened, our heart -- it was clear that our heart wanted to be here.
So the timing, the way it happened, on Monday when I got the call that they actually were going to be able to do a trade, it was a split-second decision and we knew we wanted to make it.
Q. In a young clubhouse, replacing a guy like Castro for a young team, first experience, seeing a guy like that move, how does Ben's fit with the team make that transition easier for you?
JOE MADDON: Among our team, primarily among the position players, it's been mostly young guys. Zo shows up as more of a veteran presence among the position players, and that's something we haven't had. The veteranship has been more among the pitching staff.
You've heard him talk over the last ten or 15 minutes, and I was listening very carefully, and that's obviously who he is. When he shows up into our clubhouse, you can already recognize and feel the kind of impact he's going to have among our guys.
As he's talking, I'm remembering back in the day when he was on the shuttle between Durham and Tampa Bay, I had to send him down a couple times and all this guy ever talked about, seriously, was wanting to be able to stay there because he thought he was going to want to be a part of that winning moment in Tampa Bay.
Zo is only about one thing. He's the consummate team-player professional. The kind of impact he can have on our young position players to me is going to be phenomenal. He does take care of himself great. Just the example to be set is going to be perfect I think for our young players.
I love Starlin Castro. I think he's outstanding and I think he's going to be very productive in the American League with the Yankees, but to get Zo to walk in the door right now among the young players and be able to exhibit or exude this kind of influence, not only the work ethic, but how to play the game, play the game properly, show up every day, be ready to play, that's who he is, man.
I'm really excited. He knows that. I'm really excited about having the Zobrists back, and he's going to make a big impact on our team next year and for the next several years.
Q. Did being close to home really factor into your decision on signing with the Cubs?
BEN ZOBRIST: Well, yeah, that was part of our hope at the beginning is that we would be able to come to the middle part of the country if we could. We really enjoyed our time in Kansas City, and kind of being back in the middle part of the country really kind of whet our appetite for staying somewhere near where I grew up.
And especially winning, and just I think the Midwest fan base, I'm excited for the Chicago fan base. It's going to be a blast, I think overall, the whole thing about it. I can't say any more than the fact that we're thrilled. And yeah, that certainly had a part in the process trying to come back to this part of the country.
Q. What did you gain from your time in Kansas City? How do you think that experience, that run, will help this young Cubs ballclub?
BEN ZOBRIST: Well, I don't think you really ever know kind of what it takes fully to win a championship until you do it. You kind of see it played out. And I got a front row seat to watch it happen on my teammates, in their hearts and in my own, as we made the journey in the Postseason and won those critical games and those tough games where you're coming back from being down.
All that stuff, I think it builds a kind of sort of mettle in you and a confidence that even when things aren't going well, you can turn it around. You kind of know the attitude you need to take into that.
And, for me, that's the whole goal here. I'm not going to be satisfied until we -- I'm not going to be satisfied with making the playoffs here. I'm not going to be satisfied with winning the NLCS here. It's the championship. That's what it's all about.
It's about executing that plan, that goal, and until it comes down to that last out, you haven't won anything. I think to be able to help my teammates kind of just convey that, that experience that I got this year, I think is going to serve me really well if we're able to make the playoffs, and hopefully I can pass some of that on to some of these guys.
And they experienced it this year. They already know how to get there. I think it was maybe a year earlier than everybody kind of expected, but now it's going to be expected and we understand that as players and it all comes down to really executing when the time comes and playing good when it counts. That's what it's going to all be about.