Tag: Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler to Cardinals: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Outfielder Dexter Fowler agreed to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, as first reported by USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale.

The deal is for five years and $82.5 million, including a full no-trade clause, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports on Friday. 

Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports in St. Louis reported a physical is scheduled for Friday.

Fowler, 30, was a crucial member of the Chicago Cubs as they won their first World Series title since 1908, hitting .276 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs and 13 stolen bases in 125 regular-season games. He was solid in the postseason as well, hitting .250 with three home runs, six RBI, 11 runs and a stolen base in 17 games.

But the Cubs are loaded in the outfield, with Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. available. Heyward and Almora are capable of manning center field duties, so re-signing Fowler was never likely to be a priority for the reigning champions.


That allowed St. Louis to snag Fowler, who should not only improve the team’s defense but also provide consistent production toward the top of the lineup. Additionally, his postseason experience will be valued in the clubhouse.

Fowler was a key ingredient in the Cubs’ title-winning season. Now, the Cardinals will be hoping he’s the addition that puts them over the top as they seek another championship themselves.

One of the primary areas of need for the Cardinals was an upgrade in center field, so Fowler will check off that box. Fowler’s signing should also fan the flames of the team’s heated rivalry with the Cubs, and his addition makes the Cardinals a threat in the NL Central.

Fowler’s signing won’t be as flashy as some of the other names out there, but he was exactly what the Cardinals needed this offseason.

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Dexter Fowler’s Defection Gives Cardinals a Fighting Chance Against Rival Cubs

The St. Louis Cardinals have the unenviable task of catching up to the Chicago Cubs. It’s a mission that will take all their cunning.

Their latest idea: deny the enemy and enrich themselves in one fell swoop.

It’s not officially official, but the news circulating Thursday night is that Dexter Fowler is defecting from the Cubs to the Cardinals. Bob Nightengale of USA Today was on it first:

According to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, Fowler’s deal with St. Louis will be for five years and at least $16 million per season. The Cardinals would also lose the No. 19 pick in the 2017 draft.

Nonetheless, a quality center fielder may be about to earn less money than Aroldis Chapman, a one-inning relief pitcher who’s in line to get $86 million over five years from the New York Yankees. Simply on those grounds, let’s call this a win for the Cardinals. Good job, guys.

But that’s not the only reason for them to be giddy. Per Nightengale, Fowler has been the club’s top target since the summer. Manager Mike Matheny has made no secret of that, going so far as to compare Fowler to Cardinals All-Star Matt Carpenter.

“The more players that you can have like that, I think the better off you’re going to be,” the skipper told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

There’s more reason to like Fowler now than ever before. The 30-year-old is coming off one of his best seasons. He finished 2016 with an .840 OPS underscored by a .393 on-base percentage. He also played against type by rating well defensively.

With Fowler’s age-31 season due up in 2017, there’s a natural concern about how well he’ll age in the life of a five-year contract. But in his case, there are reasons to believe he’ll be fine.

Although Fowler’s still an excellent athlete, his offensive production stems mainly from his head. He has an outstanding approach and an excellent batting eye.

That not only affords him plenty of OBP-boosting walks but ensures that most of his swings are taken at pitches he can hit well. Even if he tops out around 15 home runs per season, this is how he keeps his overall power production above league average.

Meanwhile, Fowler’s defensive improvement in 2016 had nothing to do with a random mid-career surge of athleticism. It traced back to a simple positioning adjustment.

“I was getting crushed with the defense,” Fowler told Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune in October. “They said I was a bad outfielder. I kind of took offense to that. So I just moved back a few steps.”

Assuming Fowler takes this adjustment to St. Louis, he stands to improve a center field spot that finished 24th in ultimate zone rating in 2016. The Cardinals’ entire defense would benefit from that, which would satisfy one of the goals they had for their offseason.

“It certainly was a year of inconsistencies,” general manager John Mozeliak said in October, per Ben Frederickson of the Post-Dispatch. “You think back to some of our defensive struggles, which put a lot of stress on our rotation and then led to some inconsistencies with the rotation.”

On the other side of the ball, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney’s projection for the new Cardinals lineup looks about right:

Fowler can’t do much to upgrade a leadoff spot that, mainly thanks to Carpenter, posted a .368 OBP and .848 OPS in 2016.

But allowing Carpenter to move into the middle of the batting order should have the desired effect there. Only five teams got a lower OPS from their Nos. 3 through 6 hitters than the Cardinals in 2016. With an .877 OPS and 49 home runs over the last two seasons, Carpenter should fix that.

Bottom line: The Cardinals will be better after signing one of the top players on the market than they were before. How ’bout that, huh? Amazing.

Now, as good as the Cubs? Not quite yet.

The Cubs won 17 more games (and that other thing) than the Cardinals in 2016, so they started the winter in a better place by default.

And although they’ve lost Fowler, Albert Almora Jr. will probably play better defense in center while a healthy Kyle Schwarber picks up Fowler’s offensive slack. The Cubs also filled their vacant closer role with Wade Davis, who is very, very good.

The early projections for 2017 peg the Cubs to once again be the team to beat not just in the NL Central but in the entire league. Per FanGraphs, their projection of 95 wins is the highest of any club.

But with a projection of 84 wins even before Fowler is factored into the mix, the Cardinals do have one thing going for them: They’re the team in the NL Central with the best shot of taking down the Cubs.

Two of the clubs in the division, the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds, are so far out of the picture that we might as well be assessing their chances of winning the NFC North. The Pittsburgh Pirates have good individual parts but an incomplete whole and limited resources for fixing it.

With only the (shockingly expensive) Brett Cecil signing going for them before Thursday, the Cardinals were more in a boat with the Pirates than paddling toward the Cubs. With Fowler now set to give them a boost in more ways than one, their odds of overtaking the Cubs are somewhere below laughable.

Faint praise? Sort of. But you never know. Maybe the Cardinals aren’t supposed to topple the Cubs, but Frodo wasn’t supposed to get the One Ring to Mt. Doom either. Nor was Luke Skywalker supposed to destroy the Death Star.

Sometimes all you can do is give it a shot. The Cardinals are now ready to take theirs.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. 

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Dexter Fowler: Latest News, Rumors and Speculation on Free-Agent CF

Dexter Fowler put together an All-Star-caliber season with the Chicago Cubs throughout 2016, and at least one American League team has already expressed strong interest in bringing the free-agent center fielder aboard. 

Continue for updates. 

Blue Jays Chasing Fowler

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Citing sources, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the Toronto Blue Jays “are showing a strong interest” in Fowler with Jose Bautista a potential goner in free agency. 

Heyman added that Fowler reuniting with the Cubs “appears unlikely” after the defending World Series champions signed Jon Jay to a one-year, $8 million deal on Tuesday, according to ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers

On Nov. 23, Heyman reported the New York Yankees did some homework on Fowler, but the team’s level of interest in bringing the 30-year-old to town remained unclear. 

Fowler was dialed in throughout the 2016 season, and the numbers prove as much. In 125 games, he batted .276 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI and 13 stolen bases while working as a switch-hitting linchpin at the top of the order. 

MLB Trade Rumors‘ Tim Dierkes also noted Fowler “led all free agents with a .393 on-base percentage in 2016 and reinforced his center field defense as at least average.”

A season after recording a career-best 4.1 offensive wins above replacement, per Baseball-Reference.com, Fowler should finally be able to cash in on a long-term deal a year after he was forced to settle for a one-year pact with the Cubs.

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Dexter Fowler Declines Contract Option: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

In February, outfielder Dexter Fowler surprised everyone—including his own teammates—by re-upping with the Chicago Cubs on a one-year deal. Suffice it to say he’ll be looking for long-term security this time around.

Fowler plans to decline his mutual option with the Cubs for 2017, making him an unrestricted free agent.

“I’m definitely going to be a free agent, but hopefully it happens a little bit quicker than last year,” Fowler said on SportsCenter on Thursday (via ESPN.com). “You can’t control what goes on, but I loved my time in Chicago and I’m definitely not counting them out, but we’ll see what God has planned for us now.”

The 30-year-old hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs and 48 RBI in 125 contests this season. He was also instrumental in helping the Cubs win their first championship since 1908, belting the first Game 7 leadoff home run in World Series history Wednesday.

“We would not be in this position without him,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said during the National League Championship Series, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “Go back to spring training, and even prior to that where we were trying to put this thing together, and I was on the phone a lot with [president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] and [general manager Jed Hoyer] regarding the composition.”

Many expected Fowler to leave Chicago a year ago. He hit the free-agent market after a solid first season with the Cubs, hitting 17 homers and stealing 20 bases while drawing 84 walks early in the order. While his average dipped to a career-worst .250, it seemed inevitable he would find a long-term contract in free agency.

Instead, the market dried up quicker than most expected and left Fowler hanging as spring training approached. The Cubs pounced on a team-friendly one-year deal, which paid Fowler $13 million after a buyout but offered a mutual option.

Fowler responded by putting together the best season of his career. His 4.7 wins above replacement were 1.4 greater than his previous career high, per FanGraphs. Having spent his first six MLB seasons with the Colorado Rockies, Fowler is a rare player who has improved his offense away from Coors Field.

Making things better was his sudden defensive improvement in 2016. Long considered a defensive minus in the outfield, Fowler put up positive stats in nearly every metric—something he attributed to playing at a normal depth rather than shallow.

“I was thinking about it during the offseason,” he said, per Nightengale. “I came into spring training, actually walked into Joe’s office, and I said, ‘I got something for you guys.’ I’m going to play a little deeper this year. I want to play where everybody else is playing, and I think that will help me out.”

Fowler should not have any trouble finding a long-term deal this winter, but it’s unlikely to be with the Cubs. Albert Almora, the organization’s 22-year-old phenom, is champing at the bit to become the everyday center fielder in 2017. He looked solid in limited big league playing time last season, hitting .277, and even made the playoff roster.

Fowler will likely command a multiyear deal from a team looking for a reliable outfielder at the top of its lineup. If he’s still unsigned when camp gets ready to open next year, something will have gone wrong. 


Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

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World Series Shift to Chicago Ushers in Historic Moment Bigger Than the Game

CHICAGO — The old girl is dressed to the nines. Wrigley Field, on deck to host her first World Series game Friday night since Oct. 10, 1945, is crackling with energy.

And when the Chicago Cubs take the field to face the Cleveland Indians in Game 3, this shrine of a ballpark, which has produced so many memorable afternoons and, later, evenings, will author a first: An African-American wearing a Cubs uniform will play in a World Series game in Wrigley Field.

The Cubs have not been here since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.

Which means, well, gasp, yes.

It is amazing to even attempt to rationally wrap our minds around it. How we got here, how in the name of Martin Luther King Jr., or even Ernie Banks, this hasn’t happened before in Wrigley, is a testament to a century of futility for the Cubs.

“Ernie and I tried, but we didn’t get there,” Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams said.

Williams was standing in the visitors’ dugout at Cleveland’s Progressive Field as he spoke, beaming, looking at his beloved franchise in a real World Series, smiling at the thought of leadoff man Dexter Fowler, shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Carl Edwards Jr. becoming the first black men to play in a World Series wearing a Cubs uniform in any venue.

“The World Series itself is great, but when you look at all the things that have happened in baseball and then you look and see that four African-Americans are playing in a World Series for the Cubs for the first time in all those many years, it’s really something,” he continued.

“It gives you two thrills: To be here at the World Series, and to see those individuals play.”

That it comes at a time of more jagged racial tension in our country’s history, with the Black Lives Matter movement pushing for change and policemen under fire, might not make the debuts of these four Cubs any more significant. But it sure makes them more deeply felt.

“Just knowing Dex and J-Hey, and knowing C.J. [Edwards Jr.], we’ve always been the type of people to never settle for the everyday usual,” said Russell, who became the first African-American to collect a World Series RBI for the Cubs when he drew a bases-loaded walk to push across the fifth run in Chicago’s 5-1 Game 2 victory.

“I think that’s what has driven us. We didn’t have a choice to pick the ethnic background that we have, but it is what it is, and we are who we are, and we try to make the best of it that we can.

“Black Lives Matter is a huge movement. I think African-Americans need to be heard, for sure.”

Russell added that it is “nice on paper” to be able to say that he’s one of the first four African-Americans to play in a World Series for the Cubs. Fowler, who became the first black player to play for the Cubs in a Fall Classic when he led off Game 1 by taking a called third strike against Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, said it was “awesome” to play the role of a trailblazer.

Heyward, the free agent who signed an eight-year, $184 million deal but has lost his starting spot because of a prolonged slump, downplayed the racial angle while acknowledging the larger moment.

“I haven’t thought about it other than we come in every day and prepare as players to do what we can to help our team win,” Heyward said. “We go out there on a daily basis, representing our family name, representing our organization, representing our city, and that’s the bottom line.

“We were born African-Americans, and there’s nothing we can control there. It’s been that way our whole lives, so it’s not surprising to say it’s a first.

“It’s unique and cool and, I guess, humbling to be a part of it for the first time. But we’re just here by chance, you know? Everything happens for a reason.”

What is not by chance, and what is instructive about this particular group of Cubs, is how they’ve ascended racial boundaries all summer long.

Most of the team—black, white, Latin—gathered in Fowler’s Cincinnati hotel room in April to celebrate Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter earlier that day.

Heyward, in a classy pay-it-forward move thanking a veteran who had taken him under his wing when they both were with the Atlanta Braves organization, has footed the bill for David Ross to be upgraded to a hotel suite on every Cubs road trip this year. That has continued into the postseason, Ross said, a gesture that is especially meaningful now because Ross’ wife, children and parents have been traveling in October, and the suite gives them all a place to stay and spread out.

Ross spoke at length of Heyward’s generosity Thursday.

To Heyward, being kind and generous is the way everybody should behave, no matter their ethnicity.

“We’re in a World Series,” Heyward, 27 and a native of Georgia, said. “I know I’m an African-American, so I go represent the best way I can as a person with my teammates and my friends and in terms of the organization because you know you’ve got a lot of different things from a lot of different people and a lot of people are watching. That’s the bottom line. Just treat people how you want to be treated and go from there.”

For reliever Edwards, 25 and a native of Prosperity, South Carolina, his place in Cubs history is humbling.

“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “We’ve seen Robinson come through, and I’m not saying we’re just like him, but…me and Dex and J-Hey and Addison—this is a great thing to have on our resume.”

Edwards is aware enough of the moment, both playing in his first World Series and understanding the social significance of it, that he plans to keep the cleats he wears whenever he makes his first appearance. In fact, he figures he’ll probably take a few other things home for his archives too because “this doesn’t happen to everybody.”

He’s thought about the timing of this moment and the social forces at work as a backdrop.

“Back home, of course, they put up the Black Lives Matter posts,” Edwards said. “But now everybody at home is putting up my picture on Facebook and social media because it’s something positive.

“Black Lives Matter—everybody is thinking that’s a negative. This is something positive that people can hang on to.”

He figures the kids back in his hometown can benefit from his experience because “if they see somebody from home doing it, it gives them more confidence.”

As Russell said: “It’s absolutely meaningful to us, to our families and, obviously, to our bloodline. I think our ethnicity, we wear it on our shoulders. Whenever you get around a group of people that come from so many different backgrounds, you have to be rooted a little bit, I think, whenever it comes to your ethnicity.”

And so as they step on to the Wrigley Field lawn and move just a bit deeper into Cubs lore, this is one of the most significant steps yet.

“Sports itself has a way of bringing a lot of injustices to the forefront,” Williams, 78, and a native of Whistler, Alabama said. “When you look on the field and you see African-Americans, you see whites, you see Italians, you see all races of people out on the baseball field, and that’s why it helps so much to bring about justice in this world.”

Recently, Williams said he watched the film 42, the biopic of Robinson’s life story. In it, there is a scene in Cincinnati in which Pee Wee Reese walks over and throws his arm around Robinson in a show of support as the fans showered him with racial taunts and other epithets.

It reminded him of his own Hall of Fame induction in 1987 and after, when, he said, “I used to go to the Hall of Fame, and I wanted to find Pee Wee Reese. And when I found him, I would put my arms around him just like he did to Jackie Robinson. And it gave me a great thrill.”

Yeah, as Williams said, it is great to see. Both the Cubs in the World Series and doing it in living, vivid color.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Dexter Fowler Injury: Updates on Cubs OF’s Hamstring and Return

Chicago Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler left the field during Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates with right hamstring discomfort. He has been placed on the disabled list, and it is uncertain when he will return to action.

Continue for updates.

Fowler Lands on 15-Day DL

Monday, June 20

The Cubs announced they placed Fowler on the disabled list retroactive to June 19 and brought pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. up to replace him on the roster.

Latest on Severity of Fowler’s Injury

Sunday, June 19

Jesse Rogers of ESPN reported he’s hearing that Fowler’s injury “isn’t serious” and the outfielder is “doing better today.”

Fowler’s Injury Further Depletes Cubs’ Outfield Depth

The Cubs lost 23-year-old left fielder Kyle Schwarber to a torn ACL and LCL at the dawn of the 2016 campaign, which made Fowler’s role with the club all the more pivotal this year.

Fowler has established himself as a viable starter in the midst of a loaded young core that headlines Chicago’s roster. He’s had an excellent 2016 campaign thus far with a slash line of .290/.398/.483.

Jason Heyward has some experience in center field, so he could slide over to help mitigate the impact of Fowler’s absence.

Otherwise, Chicago manager Joe Maddon will have to look further into his bench for a replacement in center field. Matt Szczur figures to be the prime candidate with Jorge Soler (hamstring) on the 15-day disabled list.

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Cubs CF Dexter Fowler’s Daughter Gets Excited When She Sees Dad on Television

The grind of a seven- or eight-month season can make it tough for baseball players to see their families as much as they would like.

Fortunately, the families do at least get to watch the players as they work—either at the ballpark or on television. That may not be the same as actually spending quality time with them, but it’s the next-best thing.

For Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler‘s daughter, Naya, seeing her father on television makes everything better when he is on the road. Just look at her reaction when she sees him on the screen, and try not to get caught up in the feels.

The Cubs start the 2016 season with a six-game road trip out West, so watching Dexter play on television will have to do for the time being. Even though it may be past the youngster’s bedtime, the Fowlers are willing to make exceptions so Dexter’s biggest fan can see him:

Chicago’s first homestand, which begins April 11, can’t come soon enough for Naya.

[Darya Aliya Fowler]

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Dexter Fowler’s Agent Rips Orioles’ Handling of Free-Agent Rumors

Dexter Fowler re-signed with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday in an agreement many speculated was a spurn of the Baltimore Orioles.     

On Tuesday, Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine reported Fowler had agreed to a three-year, $33 million contract with Baltimore.

However, Fowler’s agent, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management, issued a statement after the dust settled Thursday vehemently refuting Fowler made such a pact:    

In my 25 years in this business, never before have I witnessed such irresponsible behavior on so many fronts. Both the Orioles front office and members of the media were so busy recklessly spreading rumors that they forgot or simply chose not to concern themselves with the truth. The Orioles’ willful disregard of collectively bargained rules governing free agency and the media’s eager complicity in helping the Orioles violate those rules are reprehensible. Dexter Fowler never reached agreement with the Orioles and did not come close to signing with the club; any suggestion otherwise is only a continuation of an already disturbing trend.

Before reaching a deal Thursday, Fowler rejected a $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Cubs in November. Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reported Fowler’s new contract is worth $8 million for one year, with a $5 million buyout and a $9 million mutual option for 2017.

Fowler said Thursday he never offered the Orioles any confirmation he was signing with them. 

“I didn’t give [the Orioles] a verbal agreement,” Fowler said, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t know where that came from. It didn’t come from our camp. It kind of put me in a difficult situation.”

In fact, Cubs president Theo Epstein said the two parties reached an agreement Tuesday just as reports were surfacing that Fowler would sign with Baltimore, per Gonzales.

Dan Duquette, the Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations, said discussions broke down when the center fielder insisted an opt-out clause be included in the three-year deal.

“We made a very competitive offer,” Duquette said, per Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. “There was not an agreement to terms because they kept insisting on an opt-out. I don’t see, club ownership doesn’t see the value in that type of arrangement to the Orioles. If we are going to guarantee a contract, it should be a contract.”

Heyman added it would’ve been uncharacteristic for the Orioles to offer an opt-out:

Fowler remained one of the last blue-chip free agents—even after full-squad workouts began in spring training—largely because teams would’ve forfeited a draft pick by signing him after he rejected a qualifying offer

The center fielder offered a stern critique of those types of clauses in the free-agency process, per Gonzales:

It was tough, but it was a learning experience. You go out there with the whole qualifying offer thing. I think it’s flawed. Guys like myself we’re veterans. We’ve been here for a while and you wait for free agency, and they’re talking about a draft pick.

That’s a guy you don’t know what’s going to happen with. And you’re reaping the consequences. So it needs to change. But it’s a blessing in disguise. You get to see both sides of things.

Yet Fowler was clearly happy the process is behind him, as he surprised and embraced teammates Thursday at camp, courtesy of CSN Chicago’s Kelly Crull:

The Cubs outfield remains crowded with Fowler’s return, but that’s a good problem for the World Series hopefuls to have.

Epstein said Fowler will return to his post in center field, while free-agent signee Jason Heyward will split time between right and center, per Gonzales. Right fielder Jorge Soler will also see time in left with hybrid catcher Kyle Schwarber. To make room for Fowler, the Cubs traded outfielder Chris Coghlan to the Oakland Athletics. 

The Cubs are already the unanimous World Series favorites with 4-1 odds, per Odds Shark, and the return of Fowler should only bolster the top of their lineup as they set their sights on their first crown in more than a century.

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Chicago Cubs’ Shocking Dexter Fowler Steal Boosts World Series-Ready Roster

Call the Dexter Fowler re-signing a fantasy-turned-reality for the Chicago Cubs, because any hope that the team could entice Fowler to come back for the 2016 season didn’t seem possible a short while ago.

When the Cubs signed outfielder Jason Heyward to an eight-year, $184 million contract in December, it essentially took the team out of the Fowler sweepstakes.

He was seeking a lucrative, multiyear deal in a crowded class of 2016 free-agent outfielders. It didn’t appear that the Cubs could meet his demands.

Then nothing happened.

Free agency moved slowly, and the second-tier outfielders like Fowler saw that their value wasn’t as high as they had anticipated. The best option for some free-agent outfielders became signing a one-year deal, giving them the ability to re-enter free agency in 2017 when the outfield class will be weaker.

So Fowler spurned a $35 million offer from the Orioles, which ESPN.com reported to be done pending a physical, and accepted a one-year deal from the Cubs with a mutual option for 2017. The team announced the deal in a press release on Thursday.

The Cubs had a World Series contender. Now, they have their 2016 Dream Team.

“I was happy for Dex,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said to ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers. “He deserves a great moment. We hatched a little plan and were able to pull it off.”

Prior to the Fowler signing, I’m sure Epstein cooked up all sorts of different scenarios in his sabermetrics lab at Wrigley Field.

And undoubtedly one of those included playing Heyward in center field.

Given an entire season to play the position, Heyward would probably be an above-average center fielder. In 10 games last year in centera small sample sizeHeyward had a defensive runs saved above average of two.

But he is truly a corner outfielder. His high contract value is largely based upon his defensive metrics and capabilities as a right fielder. Last season, Heyward’s defensive runs saved above average as a right fielder was 22.

With Fowler now on the roster, Heyward can play right field the majority of the time. Fowler has been a career center fielder, playing right field for only one game in eight seasons.

A crowded Cubs outfield that includes Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarberthe Cubs also announced Thursday that they traded outfielder Chris Coghlanmight force Heyward into center on Fowler’s off days.

But Fowler’s presence in the lineup allows Heyward to be the everyday right fielder. That makes the Cubs a more analytically efficient team defensively. With one of baseball’s top starting pitcher trios—2015 National League Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and 2016 signee John Lackey—defense is the Cubs’ top priority.

The move also happens to fill a hole at the top of their lineup, though.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon proved last season that he isn’t afraid to experiment with the leadoff spot, even using the power-hitting Schwarber as the team’s table-setter. But the speedy Fowler provides the Cubs a prototypical leadoff player with the proven ability to get on base.

With the Cubs last season, Fowler broke 100 runs scored for the first time in his career (102). However, he posted career lows in batting average (.250) and on-base percentage (.346), though the latter ranked him 52nd in all of baseball.

Considering the Cubs have added Heyward and Ben Zobrist, and their rookies will be playing with major league experience, the residual effect on the lineup will likely allow Fowler more opportunities to get on base.

Fowler’s best season came in 2012 with the Rockies when he hit .300 and posted an on-base percentage of .389. He is a career .267 hitter with a .363 on-base percentage.

A switch-hitter, Fowler also adds balance to a lineup that looked to be more left-handed prior to his signing. Against left-handed pitching last season, Fowler hit .326 with a .399 on-base percentage. So he adds a solid right-handed bat.

Combined with Heyward at the top of the Cubs’ order, the team has a duo apt to get on base for the power-hitting trio of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Schwarber.

Realistically, Fowler isn’t going to win any team a World Series.

But the Cubs were already contenders before they signed him. His addition only makes them look that much better, like a $10,000 necklace on a supermodel.

Cubs fans have been dreaming the last 108 years. This season, that World Series dream seemed more like a realityeven a possibility.

Dare I say this? Now it’s likely.


Advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Seth Gruen is a national baseball columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @SethGruen and like his Facebook page.

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Dexter Fowler Re-Signs with Cubs: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

It appears Dexter Fowler had a last-second change of heart, opting to re-sign with the Chicago Cubs for at least one more season. 

The Cubs announced Fowler agreed to terms on a one-year deal for 2016 with a mutual option for 2017.

According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Fowler will make $8 million in base salary this season, with his option for 2017 at $9 million and a $5 million buyout. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Fowler then ends up with $13 million in guaranteed money.

Fowler appeared to be on his way to the American League East, with ESPN’s Buster Olney reporting on Tuesday that the 29-year-old agreed to a three-year, $35 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles

However, per Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, Fowler’s deal with the Orioles fell through because the team didn’t want to give him an early opt-out. 

Fowler said Chicago is “where my heart is” and confirmed he turned down a three-year offer from another club, though he did not say which it was, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune

According to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com, Fowler’s deal was announced as he was walking onto the field at Cubs spring training in Arizona, and team president Theo Epstein said he would “never top that.”

While the Orioles will be scratching their heads following another unusual contract situation, the Cubs were happy to welcome Fowler back into the fold:

Bringing Fowler back, though, does nothing to alleviate the logjam already present in Chicago’s outfield.

The team did announce prior to re-signing Fowler that Chris Coghlan had been traded to the Oakland Athletics, but even with Coghlan out of the picture, the Cubs now have Fowler, Jason Heyward, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber all battling for three outfield spots. Javier Baez will also be taking reps in the outfield this spring. 

Epstein said after the deal was announced that Fowler felt there were still things left to accomplish in Chicago, per Sarah Lauch of CSN Original:

There are certainly lineup options Cubs manager Joe Maddon can play with, something he’s loved doing throughout his career. 

One possible solution is having Schwarber, who had a .481 OPS against left-handed pitching last season, sit against southpaws. Fowler, a switch-hitter, has a higher career OPS against lefties (.829) than righties (.761).

Soler is a wildly talented player, but he’s also been susceptible to injury. The 24-year-old missed 61 games last season and played only 62 games in the minors two years ago. Jason Heyward, who is traditionally a right fielder, has never been asked to play center field for a full season.

It’s not necessarily a bad problem to have so much talent in the outfield, but that’s a lot of players battling for playing time. Unless the Cubs are working on a potential deal involving at least one other outfielder, Epstein and Maddon will have to create a lot of at-bats for their crowded roster.


Stats per Baseball-Reference.com.

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