MLB: Top Five Free Agent Destinations for Dexter Fowler
Dexter Fowler led off Wednesday night’s historic World Series Game Seven in grand fashion. But where will the Cubs hero be when the 2017 season begins?
On just the fourth pitch of the game, Dexter Fowler took Corey Kluber deep when he smashed a sinker over the center field wall, giving the Chicago Cubs an early 1-0 lead and becoming the first player in baseball history to lead off a Game 7 of the World Series with a home run.
Fowler’s home run was the beginning of a wild 8-7 extra-inning victory that finally lifted the Cubs over their 108-year title drought – a night no baseball fan will ever forget.
Once the ground ball from the final out in the bottom of the tenth left Kris Bryant‘s hand and cracked the leather of Anthony Rizzo‘s glove, the party officially started for Dexter Fowler, his teammates and perhaps one of the greatest fan bases in the history of sports.
But that final out also signaled free agency for the second consecutive offseason for the 30-year-old Fowler, who let’s not forget nearly left the Cubs last winter to sign with the Baltimore Orioles before returning to the Cubs on a one-year pact. Had he actually put pen to paper in Baltimore, there’s no telling whether or not Cubs would have won the World Series, but my guess is they probably wouldn’t have.
All season long, Fowler proved to be the ultimate table-setter for the Cubs. In 125 regular season games, Fowler slashed .276/.393/.447 with an .840 OPS, 13 stolen bases and 84 runs scored.
In October when it mattered most, Fowler consistently helped put the Cubs in a position to win each and every game, especially in the NLCS when he hit .333 with three doubles, one home run and recorded four RBI while touching home plate himself six times over the course of six games to oust the Los Angeles Dodgers and advance to the World Series.
In seven games against Cleveland, the savvy leadoff hitter batted .233 with two homers, two RBI and nine hits through 31 plate appearances.
Anyway, as Dexter Fowler will take the next few weeks to celebrate this historic feat with his Chicago Cubs teammates and their fans, a ton of teams will start lining up to try to offer a multi-year contract to Fowler and his agent Casey Close.
That said, here are my top five free agent destinations for Dexter Fowler.
Even though their 2016 World Series victory is probably enough to keep the Cubs fans happy for the next 108 years, the truth of the matter is that this is just the beginning for the young Cubbies. Theo Epstein has built this team into a juggernaut that’s set up to be title contenders for the next five-to-ten years, and everyone knows it.
Chicago finally has a winning culture, and that’s why we’ve seen key free agents spurn other teams and sign with Theo Epstein in recent years, including World Series MVP Ben Zobrist, their ace Jon Lester and of course, Dexter Fowler just one year ago.
Fowler just made history with the Cubs, so why not stay and continue to make Chi-Town his home?
Sure, he’s 99.9 percent likely opt out of his $9 million mutual option in favor of a $5 million buyout to test the free agent market for a second consecutive offseason to seek the multi-year deal and pay increase that he deserves, but if the Cubs are willing to offer it to him, why not stay with the best team in baseball?
Things will get interesting for Theo Epstein, especially with Jason Hammel and Aroldis Chapman set to join Fowler in free agency, but I think prioritizing Dexter Fowler might be at the forefront for the Cubs.
New York Mets
After the final out of the World Series was recorded, it’s only a matter of time before New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes opts out of the final two years of his $47.5 million contract.
While the Mets’ offseason priority might be attempting to again re-sign their best player, it probably won’t happen, especially considering the reports that Cespedes is seeking a four-year deal north of the $100 million mark.
A cheaper alternative might be Dexter Fowler, but that will still leave the Mets with a gaping hole in their lineup in terms of power. Signing Fowler would, however, give the Mets more speed, athleticism and even more importantly, it’ll leave them with extra money to pursue other free agent needs, such as a potential reunion with Neil Walker or possibly even a free agent relief arm like Mark Melancon or Kenley Jansen.
The key for the Mets is deciding whether or not to sacrifice power in order to prioritize multiple needs. Do they budget the money Cespedes left on the table for say Dexter Fowler, Neil Walker and a closer, or do they commit just as much to Cespedes and only Cespedes?
Seems like a no-brainer to me.
Toronto Blue Jays
Perhaps Dexter Fowler will once again don the blue and white, but instead just over the border up north in Toronto.
With Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and possibly Michael Saunders heading to new teams this winter, the small-market Toronto Blue Jays and GM Ross Atkins suddenly have some money to play with. Adding a veteran bat to the outfield is at the top of their offseason priority list, and who better than Dexter Fowler?
Unlike the New York Mets, the Toronto Blue Jays will still have some power in their lineup even if they lose the aforementioned duo of E5 and Joey Bats, courtesy of Josh Donaldson under contract through 2018 and Troy Tulowitzki locked up through 2020.
The switch-hitting Fowler would give the Blue Jays outfield a new look, and an outfield trio of Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera/Dalton Pompey and Dexter Fowler is quite appealing from both the offensive and defensive side of the diamond.
Picture Fowler leading off with Donaldson batting second and Tulo batting third… that’s nearly as potent as the 1-2-3 the Cubs featured with Fowler, Schwarber and Bryant in Games Six and Seven of the World Series.
Still, the Blue Jays might look to retain one of Encarnacion or Bautista and save some money to extend Donaldson at some point, but expect them to enter the bidding frenzy for Fowler.
St. Louis Cardinals
While this is certainly a long-shot, there might just be a possible fit for Dexter Fowler and one of the Cubs’ biggest rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals are rumored to be in the mix for a center fielder, especially with the curious case of Randal Grichuk poised for a corner outfield position moving forward and both Stephen Piscotty and Kolten Wong not quite panning out as long-term options.
The Cardinals are also in the hunt for a table-setter, especially with Matt Carpenter transitioning from the leadoff hitter into the two- or three-hole with his newfound power stroke.
How about killing two birds (no pun intended) with one stone? Not only has Fowler blossomed into an above-average center fielder in just his second full season at the position, but he’s also thrived in the leadoff role over the course of the previous two seasons as well.
The Cards didn’t even entertain Fowler last winter, but after a dismal 2016 season in the outfield, things might be different this time around.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Perhaps the biggest offseason void the Angels need to fill aside from starting pitching is left field. Obviously Mike Trout is the franchise center fielder for the Halos, but Dexter Fowler might be an interesting candidate to move over and plug into left field to join Trout and Kole Calhoun as the Angels in the outfield.
Money certainly won’t be the issue for the Angels, especially with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Yunel Escobar among others all coming off the books this winter for Billy Eppler. But after posting an awful 74-88 campaign – good enough for second-to-last in the NL West – and no clear indication as to which direction the club is heading, they’re certainly going to have to wow Dexter Fowler with a monetary value and a pitch that separates them from the pack. Especially when you consider how close the aforementioned teams are to winning a World Series than the rebuilding Halos.
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MLB free agency is a long and winding road, but perhaps the most interesting name to keep an eye on is Dexter Fowler.
Will he rejoin the Cubs on a multi-year contract or will he attend next year’s ring ceremony on opening night as a member of a new team?
Only time will tell!