The Cubs may be set in the outfield as the calendar inches toward 2016 but with the front office continuing to field calls on Jorge Soler, Dexter Fowler could be an option in center field on a shorter term contract.
Dexter Fowler was believed to be looking for a four-year contract in the $60 million range, or a $15 million AAV (average annual value). The Giants, Nationals, Marlins, Padres and Mets have been reported as possibilities for Fowler. The Mets did not want to surrender the draft pick for Fowler and went another direction Tuesday. The Mets signed free agent OF Alejandro De Aza to a one-year deal.
Bruce Levine reported “the slow-developing free-agent outfield market may have hit Fowler harder than any other player this off-season.” He was looking for at least a three-year contract after rejecting the Cubs’ qualifying offer in November. The Cubs would “have to move an outfielder in order to bring Fowler back” but a “club-friendly two-year deal with an option” might be appealing to him. According to Levine, two years for Fowler could be in the $26-30 million range, not including a possible option.
Dexter Fowler had a good season with the Cubs. Fowler set career highs in runs scored (102), walks (84) and home runs (17). Fowler ended up with a .250/.346/.411 line with 29 doubles, eight triples and a .757 OPS. Fowler was very productive in April, July and August and struggled again with right-handed pitching (.228/.331/.395/.726).
Defensively, as it has been pointed out, the metrics have indicated Fowler was below average in center field. And outfield defense is one of the areas the front office set out to address at the beginning of the off-season.
The Cubs have been connected rather heavily to another free agent centerfielder this off-season, Denard Span. But his agent could be pushing teams away. Span is coming off an injury shortened season, playing only 70 games in his walk-year. Span had sports hernia surgery last December, underwent core muscle surgery in the spring, missed six weeks with back tightness and had season-ending hip surgery in late August.
Scott Boras has reportedly told teams interested in Span that he is looking for a three-year contract. Signing Span to a one-year contract with a club option would have been a risky move for a contending team, three years seems unrealistic, especially for the Cubs. A team that signs Span to a contract with three guaranteed years is taking on entirely too much risk.
Ken Rosenthal reported the Cubs are set with Jason Heyward in center and not looking to move Jorge Soler to open a spot for him in right field. Rosenthal explained, “Some rival executives say the Cubs will diminish Heyward’s impact by moving him from right to center, but the team takes a broader view of that issue.”
The Cubs think Heyward will provide better offense “over other centerfielders” and that should makeup “for the difference if he is not as good in center defensively as he is in right.”
There is still a possibility Dexter Fowler could return to the Cubs, but in order to do so, the front office would likely have to be blown away by an offer for Jorge Soler. It just doesn’t appear teams like the Indians, Padres or Rays are willing to back off the Shelby Miller model at this point of the off-season and make a reasonable deal for one of their starting pitchers.