MESA, Ariz. — Asked if this could be his last season in the majors, Cubs grizzled veteran Ben Zobrist caught himself from saying “yes” outright.
“Yeah — I mean, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m taking it one day at a time. Literally, like I’m focused on this year.”
Entering the final season of his four-year, $56 million contract, Zobrist, the oldest player in the Cubs’ clubhouse, would be lying if he said the thought of retirement hasn’t crossed his mind. It has been a topic of discussion this offseason, though he’s not ready to make any decisions on his future until the end of the season.
Knowing this could be his last season, Zobrist, who turns 38 in May, wants to make sure to savor every moment.
“I don’t know what’s happening after this year, so I’m just going to soak it all in,” he said. “Enjoy every bit of it. And try to win one more championship by the end of this contract. And after that, I’ll just take it as it comes, one day at a time.”
Zobrist, a two-time World Series champion, will take a lot of factors into account when deciding his future, his family being the most important. Zobrist and his wife, Julianna, have three children, whose ages range from 3 to 10.
“It’s definitely a major factor in whether I continue to play after this year or not,” he said.
But before he can even consider turning down a contract, Zobrist said he has to play well enough to earn another opportunity.
Last season, Zobrist hit a career-high .305 with 28 doubles, three triples, nine home runs and 58 RBI. He believes he’s capable of putting up similar numbers if the Cubs continue to manage his time well.
Zobrist hasn’t thought about taking a lesser role with a team next season. He also hasn’t reflected on retiring as a Cub.
“I haven’t really thought about that as much as the idea of potentially playing or not playing,” said Zobrist, who was named the 2016 World Series MVP after he drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th -inning of Game 7 against the Indians.
Nearly two decades ago, Zobrist almost quit baseball after high school. Now, he can’t imagine life without it.
“I know that in some capacity, I’ll stay involved in baseball,” Zobrist said. “But I really don’t know what that means. I just know that with having this much experience and being on a couple different championship teams and things like that, I would be — it would be not me to just hold that in and not give that away in some way.”
Zobrist said he isn’t really interested in an “every-day coaching role.”
“I don’t think about that because one of the things about the game that I think is one of the harder things to deal with is the travel, and if I am here eventually trying to spend more time with my family, I need to be home more,” he said.
But as he has emphasized, Zobrist isn’t worrying about the future right now.
“My focus is on helping this team win a championship,” he said, “and if I do that, I’ll have the option to potentially make a decision.”