Ben Zobrist is and has been an outstanding baseball player. He is injured right now but when he gets back onto the field he will go back to playing almost every day at all sorts of positions.
He has been described as a superutility player which to me means that he is a regular but not one tied exclusively to one position.
This kind of player, especially if he is a plus performer defensively in some or all of the places he plays, is quite rare. Josh Harrison was certainly worthy of the tag in 2014 when he played an excellent 3B but was quite adequate at 2B and in the outfield corners. He was stretched a bit as a SS. And unlike this year his bat was thunderous in 2014.
The Cubs hoped that Arismendy Alcantara could be their Ben Zobrist this year. But that flopped when the player did not hit and was demoted to AAA Iowa. The Mariners are now calling Chris Taylor their shortstop and Brad Miller, not happy about it at all, has been dubbed their superutility guy. I suspect this will not continue for more than a few months.
In my recollection that spans more than a half century of baseball watching there have been hundreds of utility players but only a rare few superutility ones. Tony Phillips enjoyed a long career with a number of teams and could adequately defend at a number of positions. Phillips, a switch-hitter, was usually a very dangerous batter when he faced a lefty and, alas, against a righty he was Kirk Nieuwenheis.
One of my favorite utility players in Mets history – and really he could be better described as a futility player – was Rod Kanehl who toiled for the sad sack Mets their first three years. Kanehl, pronounced “Ka-Neel” by everyone except Casey Stengel (who confused him for a small boat as he called him “Ka-Noo”) could play anywhere and could not hit a lick. He was a worse hitter than Rey Ordonez which makes him just a smidge more dangerous at the dish than our beloved Bartolo Colon.
Murphy might just qualify as a superutility player for the Mets or some team he is traded to. He could provide a team someone who can play 1B, 2B, and 3B and hit for a decent batting average. He is not in Zobrist’s league since Zobrist is a plus fielder in some spots and Murph is anywhere from a low minus at the corners to a high minus at 2B.
Wilmer Flores is more of an enigma since, first of all, his bat potential is undefined. None of us know exactly what kind of hitter he may become in the next few years. He is too ponderously slow to play the outfield but could offer the Mets or some other team a player who can be used anywhere in the infield. I suspect he might even be league average defensively at 3B or 1B. I tend to doubt he will ever be a hitter good enough to be a regular first sacker in the majors.
My strong suspicion is that no team will ever give him more than 40 games of play at shortstop after this year.
Once the Mets finally alter their shortstop situation, either by a trade or the promotion of Matt Reynolds, it will be very interesting to see what they do with Flores.