In a stunning reversal, the Cubs have re-signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2017, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. He’ll receive $8MM in 2016. The mutual option is for $9MM with a $5MM buyout (tweet). The Cubs have placed Zac Rosscup on the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster.
Recent reports had Fowler agreeing to a three-year, $33MM deal with the Orioles, but Fowler denies he ever agreed to terms per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (tweet). Jon Morosi of Fox Sports (tweet) confirms the Orioles did not believe they had a deal in place with Fowler.
The signing reportedly fell through when Fowler demanded an early opt out after one season, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. Per Jon Heyman (tweet), the Orioles did not want to lose a first round pick (compensation for Wei-Yin Chen) to sign a player for one season. When Baltimore balked, he turned down the $33MM guarantee for $13MM from Chicago.
The re-acquisition of Fowler also puts a new light on the Chris Coghlan trade which was announced about a half hour ago. The Cubs will now lose their second round draft pick for signing John Lackey. When Fowler appeared to be Baltimore-bound, they would have lost the associated compensation pick.
The addition of Fowler will give the Cubs plenty of outfield flexibility. They could opt to move Jason Heyward to his natural position of right field. Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber may share left field or another arrangement could be reached. Given that Fowler isn’t viewed as a positive defensive center fielder, it’s possible Heyward will remain penciled in up the middle. The club now has a wealth of outfield depth with Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez also in the mix for reps. At the press conference announcing the deal, GM Theo Epstein told reporters, “this is it. We’re not trading anyone else. We feel great about our outfield mix.”
Fowler’s high OBP profile should fit well anywhere within the Cubs lineup. Heyward and Zobrist are also candidates to bat first and second with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Schwarber, and Soler as middle of the order threats. Fowler batted .250/.346/.411 with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2015. The switch-hitter has a history of better on base percentages including a career .363 OBP. His return takes pressure off Schwarber and Soler to perform at high levels.
It’s interesting to note that Fowler is now guaranteed less than the $15.8MM qualifying offer. The mutual option as structured appears very unlikely to be triggered by both sides. Way back in November, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted a four-year, $60MM contract for Fowler. Assuming the option is declined, Fowler will re-enter free agency prior to his age 31 season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.