When someone says that "it wasn't about the money" with Ben Zobrist when he went looking for a new team in free agency this offseason, it's not just an empty platitude. He really could have made more money going to another team before he signed with the Chicago Cubs for four years and $56 million.
Reports from the San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post say the Giants and Nationals, respectively, made Zobrist an offer $60 million over four years. An extra $1 million a year over four years might not seem a lot to the typically vested Major League Baseball player -- but it's an extra four million bucks the Cubs aren't going to give Zobrist.
Talking to reporters at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. on Wednesday, Zobrist said his decision to join the Cubs was about comfort for himself and his family -- he has a wife and three kids -- and he wasn't referring to financial comfort:
"In the end, our heart wanted to be in Chicago as a family," Zobrist said. "I 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."
In addition to the Giants and Nationals wanting Zobrist, the Mets reportedly did as well.
"I was very serious about going there," Zobrist said. "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 [Nashville], 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."
The Mets, Giants and Nationals and Cubs all might be in a position to win the World Series in 2016. But, as Zobrist mentioned, there's a little extra juice trying to win one with the Cubs, who have gone since 1908 without a championship. Geography mattered too. Zobrist probably digged playing with the Kansas City Royals in the final third of the 2015 season, not only for winning the World Series, but being centrally located and easily accessible from Nashville, or anywhere. Traveling is a little harder when playing on a coast.
And of course there's the Maddon factor. Zobrist not only knows the manager from the Tampa Bay Rays, but he likes him too. That might be the most important comfort factor of all -- for any player.
So don't be too cynical, people, when you hear the cliche, "It's not about the money." Sometimes, once in a while, every so often, it really isn't.