MESA, Ariz. – After sending one super-utility man packing at last summer’s trade deadline, the A’s welcomed another on board Friday morning.
It’s no surprise to learn that the newest Athletic, Chris Coghlan, patterns his game after Ben Zobrist, who spent the first half of 2015 with Oakland before being traded to the Kansas City Royals.
Having signed with the Cubs, Zobrist played alongside Coghlan for about 48 hours, until the A’s acquired Coghlan on Thursday from Chicago for right-hander Aaron Brooks.
Coghlan says he’s ready for wherever the A’s need to play him – he’s seen time at every position in the majors except catcher, shortstop and pitcher – and that ability to adapt and fit in anywhere is straight out of the Zobrist mold.
“There were people before Zo, but Zo made it sexy and cool,” Coghlan said. “Before it was like the utility guy was not cool. That meant you’re not an everyday guy. Now it’s the cool thing, so mad props to him. I’m excited to be here, help this team win the division and help this team win a World Series.”
Coghlan, the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year, was familiar with Zobrist from their time playing in Florida – Coghlan with the Marlins, Zobrist with the Rays. No wonder Coghlan was pumped when Zobrist signed a four-year $56 million contract with the Cubs, helping make them a trendy World Series pick.
Then Coghlan got called off the practice field Thursday, and he knew something was up.
“It was cool to be able to play with him for about two days,” he said with a touch of humor.
Coghlan, 30, is eligible for free agency after this season, so, like Zobrist, he could also line himself up to score a nice contract.
The Cubs clubhouse is filled with ex A’s players – Zobrist, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Addison Russell among them. Coghlan got a positive scouting report on his new team.
“I’ve only heard great things,” he said. “… Everybody said great things about (manager Bob) Melvin, playing for him, that he’s a great communicator. Miguel Montero played for him and said, ‘You’re gonna love him.’”
Fans might remember Coghlan for his controversial slide into second base last season that broke the leg of Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang. Some said the slide was dirty, others pointed out that it was perfectly legal. And the topic got even more heated in the postseason, when Chase Utley took out Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada and injured him. Earlier this week, Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed to rules changes regarding slides into second.
Coghlan said he hated that Kang got hurt as a result of his slide but added:
“Everybody always tries to compare me to Utley. I think you’ve just got to watch the video and everybody knows there’s a huge difference. I think it’s good we want to try to keep all the star players on the field, but I think sometimes we try to control too much. This is what we play. It’s a big boy game. You gotta strap it on and be prepared.”