Cubs utilityman Ben Zobrist has been on the restricted list since May 8, five days before he and his wife, Julianna Zobrist, filed for divorce in separate states. Zobrist, 38, is in the final season of a four-year, $56 million deal he signed as a free agent in December 2015.
If his time with the Cubs is done — he hasn’t played in a game since May 6 — it likely would mean the end of a 14-year major-league career that included three All-Star appearances and the 2016 World Series Most Valuable Player Award. A look back at his path to the Cubs and some of his major-league highlights.
About a month after his Eureka High School team lost in the IHSA Class A regionals, Zobrist attends a coaches tryout for $50. A few weeks later he signs a scholarship to play baseball at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
Zobrist helps lead Olivet Nazarene to three conference championships and the program’s first two NAIA World Series appearances in 2002 and 2003, earning All-America honors.
June 7, 2004
A year after Zobrist transferred to Dallas Baptist for his senior season, the Houston Astros select him in the sixth round of the draft.
July 12, 2006
The Astros trade Zobrist and Mitch Talbot to the Rays for Aubrey Huff and cash.
Aug 1, 2006
At age 25, Zobrist makes his major-league debut, starting at shortstop and batting ninth against the Tigers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The switch hitter goes 0-for-4 in the Rays’ 10-4 loss. A night later against the Tigers, Zobrist picks up his first major-league RBI — on a sacrifice squeeze bunt in the fifth inning.
Aug. 4, 2006
After an 0-for-11 start, Zobrist gets his first hit with a single to right-center off Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling in the fifth inning of a 3-2 Rays loss. Two nights later, Zobrist hits his first major-league home run, a solo shot off Jason Johnson in the third inning of a 7-6 victory against the Red Sox. He later hits a two-run double for his first multi-RBI game.
After sitting out the Rays’ four-game victory over the White Sox in the American League Division Series, Zobrist makes his first postseason appearance, entering as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS against the Red Sox. Facing Hideki Okajima, he grounds out to shortstop in a game the Rays won 9-8 in 11 innings. On Oct. 22, Zobrist starts in right field in Game 1 of the World Series against the Phillies and goes 1-for-3 — a single off Cole Hamels. He starts one more game and plays in two others. The Red Sox win in five games.
Zobrist enjoys a breakout season, hitting .297 with 27 home runs, 91 RBIs, a .405 on-base percentage and .549 slugging percentage in a career-high 152 games (his previous high was 62 in 2008). His 8.6 WAR is the best among position players in the AL, and he is selected to the All-Star Game for the first time.
Jan. 10, 2015
The Rays trade Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics for John Jaso, Boog Powell, Daniel Robertson and cash. In nine seasons with the Rays, Zobrist hit .264 with 1,016 hits, 114 home runs and 511 RBIs in 1,064 games. “These trades are difficult, but they’re a necessary part of how we operate," Rays President Matt Silverman says. “That doesn’t take away the sting.”
July 28, 2015
The A’s trade Zobrist (and cash) to the Royals for Aaron Brooks and Sean Manaea. Zobrist played in only 67 games with the Athletics, hitting .268 with six homers and 33 runs batted in.
Nov. 1, 2015
Zobrist scores the final run in a five-run 12th inning in Game 5 of the World Series, helping the Royals top the Mets 7-2 for their first championship in 30 years. Though he played in Kansas City, Mo., for only three months, Zobrist endeared himself to Royals fans. “It’s a special place for me. It holds a special place in my heart and in our family’s heart,” he tells the Kansas City Star in 2016.
Dec. 8, 2015
Zobrist signs a four-year, $56 million free-agent deal with the Cubs.
April 4, 2016
Zobrist goes 2-for-5 in his Cubs debut, a 9-0 victory over the Angles in Anaheim, Calif.
Nov. 2, 2016
Game 7 of the World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland is tied 6-6 in the 10th inning. With runners on first and second with one out, Zobrist comes to bat against Indians righty Bryan Shaw. On a 1-2 count, Zobrist slaps a double past third baseman Jose Ramirez down the left-field line, scoring Albert Almora Jr. with the go-ahead run. They add a run, then hold on for an 8-7 victory — and their first championship since 1908. Zobrist, who went 10-for-28 (.357), is named the World Series MVP.
May 12, 2018
In an Instagram post, Zobrist complains about a letter MLB sent him threatening a fine and discipline for wearing black spikes — shoes must have at least 51 percent of the team’s designated color (blue in the Cubs’ case), per MLB rules. Zobrist says he was inspired by the old black spikes worn by Ernie Banks and Stan Musial. “Am curious as to why @mlb is spending time and money enforcing this now when they haven’t done it previously in the last year and beyond,” Zobrist writes in the post. In the offseason, MLB loosens its shoe-color restrictions.
Feb. 23, 2019
After missing the first four days of full-squad workouts to attend to a personal matter, Zobrist arrives in Mesa, Ariz., and vows to be more of a leader in the clubhouse. “When you feel like you get to have a voice and get a chance to potentially have a say in what could happen as a new year comes, you jump in,” he tells the Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. “I’ve thought a lot about it over the offseason. “I’m excited about the potential of how things can change and the mindset going forward. I can’t wait to see it play out.”
May 8, 2019
Two days after going 1-for-4 in a 6-5 loss to the Marlins at Wrigley Field, Zobrist is granted a leave of absence, and the Cubs place him on the restricted list.
May 13, 2019
The Zobrists both file for a divorce in separate states, Ben in Williamson County, Tenn., where he resides in the offseason, and Julianna in Cook County. Ben’s filing stated his wife “has been guilty of inappropriate marital conduct which render further cohabitation impossible,” according to the Tennessean. “Husband is unsure if the marriage can be salvaged,” the filing further stated. Julianna hired attorney Karen Krehbiel, who represented Chicago billionaire hedge fund CEO Kenneth Griffin in his divorce from Anne Dias Griffin in 2015.
May 25, 2019
Julianna Zobrist, a Christian pop singer, posts on Instagram a photo of her and the couple’s three children with a lengthy caption that begins: “Hi. I am still here. Somewhat in the mire, but I am still here.” She goes on to write, presumably of people who have expressed support: “I can feel you … honoring the most intimate spaces of our pain and heartbreak without shame. I can hear you saying, Let me carry some of that for you. Thank you for stepping forward and not back.”
June 5, 2019
Cubs President Theo Epstein says he has been in touch with Zobrist, who has been away from the team for four weeks. “I’ve been in touch with him,” Epstein says. “He’s been communicative with us. We have an understanding with him. Our thoughts are with him, his family and his situation. That’s all for now.” Epstein adds that Zobrist will address his teammates “at some point” but doesn’t know whether he’ll address the media or fans. “It’s up to him,” Epstein says. A day later, manager Joe Maddon says: “I think it’s anybody’s guess really. … We have to be prepared mentally that he’s not going to (be back), but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to.”
Sources: Tribune reporting, Baseball Reference, Tribune news services.