Fowler, who’s fresh off helping the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years, declined his half of a $9MM mutual option for 2017 on Saturday and became a free agent. Fowler is all too familiar with the open market, as the 30-year-old rejected a $15.8MM qualifying offer from the Cubs last November and then went without a deal until February. After nearly taking the Orioles’ three-year, $33MM offer, Fowler re-signed with the Cubs for a guaranteed $13MM.
Fowler will once again have first-round compensation hanging over his head this offseason, but he should fare much better this time around as perhaps the second-best outfielder on the market, trailing only Yoenis Cespedes. The former Rockie and Astro is coming off the top season of his career, having slashed .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs and 13 steals across 551 plate appearances to earn his first All-Star nod. Combining Fowler’s work at the plate, on the bases and in the field, where a change in positioning led to improved metrics, he accounted for a personal-high 4.7 fWAR.
While it’s possible Fowler will re-sign with the Cubs, prospective contenders like the Mets, Mariners and Rangers, to name a few, are among clubs that are likely to search for outfield help via free agency. Fowler has spent his entire career in center, but marketing himself as a corner option could lead to more suitors, thus driving up his price.