According to a report from Bruce Levine, with just over three weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, “the Cubs and White Sox appear to be the two teams with the most interest” in Dexter Fowler.
Levine explained that Fowler will likely have to accept a one- or two-year contract, which is less than the four-year deal he was looking for at the beginning of the off-season.
The Cubs and White Sox “are monitoring Fowler’s free-agent market daily” according to Levine and one of his sources stated “the Cubs are still the most likely landing spot for Fowler.” The same source believes Fowler should have accepted the Cubs’ qualifying offer and put off his free agency until next off-season.
Levine reported the Cubs would have room in the outfield for Fowler if Jorge Soler is traded for pitching, which remains a possibility. If the Cubs re-sign Fowler, Jason Heyward could move right field, a position where he is considered the best defender in baseball.
Fowler would also give the Cubs a leadoff hitter and on a short-term deal he would be looking to prove his value as he did last season. Levine mentioned a one-two of Fowler and Ben Zobrist would provide Joe Maddon with two switch hitters in front of a middle of the lineup that will consist of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward.
For the White Sox, signing Fowler would move Adam Eaton to right field and give the Southsiders a very good top of the order. And with Fowler in center and Eaton in right, Robin Ventura and Rick Renteria could use a combination of Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia in left field.
According to Levine, “the in-vogue two-year deal with a one-year opt-out from either Chicago team would be ideal for Fowler, who made $9.5 million in 2015.” Levine thinks if Fowler received an AAV just above what he made last year “would suit the club and the player.”
If the White Sox sign Fowler it will cost them the compensation pick received for Jeff Samardzija signing with the Giants. If the Cubs re-sign Fowler, the front office would not receive a compensation pick and would not have a pick in June’s Draft until the third round. The Cubs forfeited their first two available picks in the draft by signing John Lackey and Jason Heyward.
The draft pick compensation and asking price have hurt Fowler this off-season, along with the slow-developing free agent outfield market. Fowler is represented by Excel Sports Management, the same agency as Jason Heyward and Alex Gordon.
If the Cubs re-sign Dexter Fowler, especially to a contract with an opt-out after one season, there is likely a trade with a team in place that would ensure Fowler playing time.