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Ben Zobrist expected to rejoin the Cubs before September following divorce

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor
Ben Zobrist is expected to return to the Chicago Cubs after being away for nearly three months due to personal reasons. (AP)

The Chicago Cubs are preparing for the return of Ben Zobrist, team president Theo Epstein announced on Friday.

Zobrist has been away from the team since May 8 due to personal reasons. We've since learned the absence is related to Zobrist's pending divorce from his wife of 14 years, Julianna Zobrist.

Speaking to the media before Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Epstein said that Zobrist wants to return to the team for the final stretch of the season. Zobrist could be sent on a minor-league assignment as soon as next weekend.

This is a pleasant development for the Cubs. It was just two weeks ago that manager Joe Maddon said he wasn’t expecting Zobrist’s return to come anytime soon.

That he could now be back for the playoff push is big news for Chicago.

What happens next?

Zobrist’s return will force the Cubs to do some roster maneuvering. Since he’s been placed on the non-injury restricted list, the Cubs will not be afforded the opportunity to send him on a true “rehab assignment.”

The Cubs will first have to reinstate Zobrist to the 40-man roster, and then option him to the minor leagues. The minor-league assignment will be necessary to help Zobrist get back into playing shape. It’s almost like he’s starting over at spring training after missing nearly three months.

For Zobrist to be eligible for the postseason roster, he’ll need to be activated from the restricted list before Aug. 31. That’s all but guaranteed to happen now.

All of this procedural work will be worthwhile for the Cubs as they’re set to get back one of their key players.

Will Ben Zobrist’s return help the Cubs?

It should. It’s been a struggle for the Cubs to replace Zobrist’s veteran presence at the plate and versatility in the field.

Zobrist was off to a slow start this season, hitting .241/.343/.253 in 26 games, but showed his real value last season by hitting .305/.378/.440. Maddon always enjoys the luxury of knowing he can plug Zobrist in at no less than five defensive positions without losing much defensively.

Zobrist’s return would be akin to the Cubs adding a key piece at the trade deadline if he's able to return to form.

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