“You go, we go” is what Joe Maddon told Dexter Fowler before at bats last season. And the Cubs’ skipper will get to say that to his leadoff hitter again this year. The Cubs surprised the baseball world Thursday when Dexter Fowler walked onto the practice field and announced he was returning to the Cubs.
Dexter Fowler is the everyday centerfielder and leadoff man. With Fowler back, Jason Heyward takes his Gold Glove back to right field.
Dexter Fowler had what is now a good first season with the Cubs a year ago. After an excellent April, Fowler cooled down in May and June before he turned it on in July and August. Fowler batted .272/.389/.463 after the break with a .852 OPS and hit 16 doubles, four triples and nine home runs. The Cubs will be looking for similar production from Fowler throughout the upcoming season.
The Cubs have a lot of depth in the outfield even after trading Chris Coghlan to the Oakland A’s. With Fowler back and Heyward in right, Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon said Jorge Soler will see some playing time in left field. Maddon also said Heyward will still play center field when Fowler is getting a day off.
According to ESPN Chicago, Soler basically becomes the Cubs’ fourth outfielder because Kyle Schwarber will get a majority of the playing time in left field, especially against right-handed starters. Schwarber could catch once a week which would open time for Soler in the outfield.
The Cubs are not expected to make any more major moves and that includes trades involving outfielders.
Theo Epstein said, “That’s it. We’re not trading anyone else. That’s the move. And we feel great about our outfield mix. It takes more than three guys to go through a championship season. All of these guys are great players and all are going to contribute. It gives Joe a lot of flexibility. It gives us a lot of impact depth in my opinion in which we need. With Schwarber’s ability to catch and the other guys’ ability to move all around, I think all four of those guys will have big seasons.”
Casey Close, Dexter Fowler’s agent, released the following statement Thursday regarding the rumors surrounding his client’s free agency:
“In my 25 years in this business, never before have I witnessed such irresponsible behavior on so many fronts. Both the Orioles front office and members of the media were so busy recklessly spreading rumors that they forgot or simply chose not to concern themselves with the truth. The Orioles’ willful disregard of collectively bargained rules governing free agency and the media’s eager complicity in helping the Orioles violate those rules are reprehensible. Dexter Fowler never reached agreement with the Orioles and did not come close to signing with the club; any suggestion otherwise is only a continuation of an already disturbing trend.”
Dexter Fowler Reaction
The baseball world was stunned by the signing of Fowler. Here are links with reports from the Cubs beat writers and the national media:
- ESPN Chicago: 180 Minutes in Mesa: Inside Dexter Fowler’s surprising return to Cubs
- ESPN Chicago: Five Questions on Impact of Dexter Fowler’s surprising return
- The Sun-Times: Dexter Fowler shocks Cubs players with return to team
- The Tribune: Theo Epstein does it again, the rich get richer with Dexter Fowler’s return
- Bruce Levine: Cubs Thrilled to Bring Dexter Fowler Back, Done Making Moves
- Jon Heyman found it very unusual that Fowler rejected the $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Cubs and returned on a one-year contract with a mutual option worth a guaranteed $13 million. Fowler turned down a three-year, $33 million contract from the Orioles.
- MASN: More on Dexter Fowler and the deal that wasn’t
- MASN: Dan Duquette’s Response to Casey Close
- The Sun-Times: Dexter Fowler’s agent rips into Orioles, media following signing
- Ken Rosenthal: Dexter Fowler’s fiasco with the Orioles raises a lot of questions
Overheard someone outside of the practice fields say this Thursday, with the depth the Cubs have in the outfield, it’s now slump proof. Dexter Fowler is expected to be back in uniform on Friday.