CLEVELAND (AP) — Back in college, Ben Zobrist once kicked Ned Yost out of his apartment.
He’ll now play for Kansas City’s manager.
The Royals made another big addition for the season’s stretch run on Tuesday, acquiring the versatile Zobrist and nearly $2.6 million from the Oakland Athletics for right-hander Aaron Brooks and minor league left-hander Sean Manaea.
The 34-year-old Zobrist, an infielder and outfielder, batted .268 with six home runs and 33 RBIs in 67 games for the A’s, who are in last place in the AL West after three straight playoff seasons.
He joins a Royals team that leads the AL in wins and has an eye on winning the World Series after losing in seven games to the San Francisco Giants last October.
Just like that, Zobrist went from a 56-loss team to a title contender. It’s the second big move in three days by the Royals, who acquired ace Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati on Sunday.
“I’m already joining a team that’s already a great team,” Zobrist said. “And the addition of Johnny Cueto, you got to believe there’s going to be a lot more wins coming over the next couple months. I’m super excited about it.”
During a conference call with reporters, Zobrist recalled an amusing encounter with Yost. In 2003-04, he was college roommates with Ned Yost Jr., and after coming home with his girlfriend, Zobristfound the younger Yost and his father, then manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, sitting on the couch “watching NASCAR or something.”
Zobrist said he wanted to cook dinner for his soon-to-be wife.
“I kind of booted him out of our apartment,” Zobrist said. “I kind of joked with him about that a little earlier. We’re a long time from that, but it’s kind of a funny story. I knew him way back when.”
Zobrist missed a month following arthroscopic left knee surgery in late April for a torn meniscus, but he’s fully healed and anxious to help the Royals.
A’s general manager Billy Beane pulled off his second trade in 24 hours and third in six days. Oakland dealt closer Tyler Clippard to the New York Mets on Monday after trading lefty Scott Kazmir to his hometown Houston Astros last Thursday.
Oakland is sending Kansas City $2,598,306 as part of the trade.
A’s manager Bob Melvin held a team meeting before they opened a two-game series at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. Edward Mujica is Oakland’s new closer, and Brooks will start Saturday.
“We have 62 games left, and what I told them was they we still have a lot to play for,” Melvin said. “We had three guys that aren’t here right now that were important to our team, but that doesn’t mean that we go out there with any less expectations than we had before.”
With Kansas City, Zobrist can fill a void in left field and play some second base. Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon is likely sidelined until at least late September after straining his groin tracking a fly ball just before the All-Star break. Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando were platooning at the position, but Moore sought an upgrade until Gordon’s return.
Having Zobrist available to play so many positions will give Yost an opportunity to rotate players and rest others down the stretch to keep everybody healthy and fresh for what the Royals hope is another World Series run.
“He’s going to be great for us,” Yost said. “He’s a tremendous switch-hitter. He’s a really good run producer from both sides of the batter’s box. He can play multiple positions. He gives us a lot of versatility. He’s definitely got a winner’s mentality.”
Brooks had a 6.23 ERA over two appearances for the Royals and 4 1-3 innings. He has mostly pitched at Triple-A Omaha, going 6-5 with a 3.71 ERA in 18 games and 17 starts. Beane envisions him joining the A’s soon to help fill voids because of injuries.
Manaea, a top prospect, has pitched in rookie ball, Class-A and Double-A so far this season. The A’s have been reloading their farm system ahead of Friday’s trade deadline.
Beane would much rather be building his big league roster for an October run, but he’s in a different position in late July with a losing club.
“We’d rather be on the other end of it, that’s for sure,” he said. “You also have to be somewhat pragmatic when evaluating the situation and the organization’s situation going forward. This season I think we had higher hopes.
“We wanted to address the lack of pitching depth in the organization and we think this helps,” Beane added. “Kansas City’s got a good club and they’re being aggressive, and it worked out for us.”