Dexter Fowler is on a long list of free agent outfielders that remain unsigned as the New Year approaches. A rather impressive outfield, at least on paper, could be formed with the players such as Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, Denard Span, Austin Jackson and Fowler still unemployed and backup fly catchers like Gerardo Parra, Will Venable and Chris Denorfia also looking for jobs.
Jon Paul Morosi reported Monday on MLB Network Radio that the Nationals were very involved in talks with a free agent outfielder. Morosi did not say which player or players Mike Rizzo could be in discussion with but mentioned Fowler could be a possibility.
Soon after Morosi was off the air he tweeted the Nationals were “working to add an outfielder after reaching an agreement with Daniel Murphy” and they would prefer someone that can play center field.
According to the Washington Post, Murphy addressed “two of the Nationals’ big needs and a minor one.” Murphy adds a left-handed bat to the lineup, a contact hitter and a second baseman, despite the defense he brings to the table.
James Wagner said the Nationals still have questions about who will hit leadoff next season and the team “could use another strong outfielder, someone who could play every day should Jayson Werth, or others, suffer injuries or if Michael A. Taylor struggles in his second year.” Right now, Taylor is penciled in as the Nationals starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter. It is possible, according to Wagner, the Nationals could fill two of their needs with one player … a leadoff hitter that plays center field.
Wagner explained that the Nationals “haven’t publicly closed the door” on re-signing Denard Span “though privately they are weary of his health.” Span is “running and rehabbing from his late August hip surgery” but he “may not be back to pre-surgery form until later in the season.”
Dexter Fowler is among “other potential options” Wagner mentioned in his report along with Austin Jackson, Gerardo Parra and trade candidates Carlos Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon. Wagner said the Nationals have talked to the Rockies “but the asking price for Gonzalez was viewed as too high and it is unclear where things stand.” Wagner pointed out the free agents he named in the report “are simply speculated fits.”
Signing a free agent, like Dexter Fowler, that is attached to draft pick compensation is not believed to be an issue at this point for the Nationals. When Murphy is officially signed, the Nationals will surrender its first round pick but the team received a compensation pick for Jordan Zimmermann signing with the Tigers and will get another comp pick when Ian Desmond lands with a club.
The Nationals are one of a handful of teams that have been linked to Fowler this off-season. The Mets were believed to have interest in Fowler before signing Alejandro De Aza. With De Aza under contract, the Metropolitans are no longer looking to sign an outfielder.
The Giants, Marlins and Padres are the other three teams that have been connected to Fowler by various media reports. And there is still a possibility Fowler could re-sign with the Cubs.
Bruce Levine reported last week that Fowler is still viewed as an option for the Cubs. In order to bring back Fowler, the Cubs would likely have to trade Jorge Soler. And Fowler would have to take a shorter term contract than the four-year deal in the $60 million range he is believed to be looking for this winter.
According to Levine, a two-year contract worth $26-30 million plus an option for a third year might be the type of team-friendly deal that could be of interest to the Cubs if the front office trades Soler and he was still unsigned.
No one thought the volume of quality outfielders would still be available at this point. With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in seven weeks, players should start coming off the board soon but they might end up signing for less years and dollars than expected when the off-season started.