By declining his mutual option with the Chicago Cubs, Dexter Fowler is once again a free agent, hoping to land a multiyear contract this time. The Cubs who he played for the last two years, along with the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays will be trying to sign him.
Fowler stayed a free agent a lot longer than anyone expected last season, but after a career-year and a very good postseason in which he helped the Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years, he expects to see a lot more big offers coming his way as soon as possible. He settled last season, returning to the Cubs on a two-year deal worth $18 million, but a $9 million mutual option on the second one.
This puts Fowler in a position to accept a $17.2 million qualifying offer which the Cubs will offer him. However, just like last season, Fowler will decline, hoping that teams don’t mind giving up a draft pick for him. Last season it wasn’t just the draft pick that deterred teams from offering him more than one season. Fowler was considered a defensive risk at center field, but that was disproven this season, while his hitting numbers (batting .276 with a .840 OPS and 13 home runs) were his best since 2012, and considering the team he was on it made much more of an impact. In the playoffs, Fowler hit 3 home runs in 75 plate appearances, batting .250 with a .724 OPS.
Fowler isn’t a big hitter, but a consistent one who has speed, patience at the plate (.393 OBP this season, career-best) and above-average defense in the outfield, and maybe better than that at corner outfield. There’s going to be a better market for Fowler this season than in the previous one, but a lot of it depends on how soon he acts (waited a bit too long last season) and also what position he’s willing to play.
The Giants, Dodgers, Rangers and Blue Jays all have the ability and willingness to spend on a corner outfielder, which is a much bigger need for them than center field. Fowler has been a CF his entire career, but taking offers for a different position will increase the market for him. Fowler liked it in Chicago obviously, but his goal in this offseason is to get a long-term, high-paying deal. We’re not going to see hometown discounts, which he felt he gave the Cubs last season, although he wasn’t in a position to say no when they offered him $9 million for 2016.