As a quick reminder from yesterday’s piece, Fowler- to his credit- is a great center fielder but remember that prior to 2016, the Chicago Cubs were prepared to let him walk away and it wasn’t until the last weeks prior to 2016 that he inked a deal to “return” to the Cubs. As I said yesterday, I’m sure both parties are pleased with this decision now.
Article continues below ...
Here’s a quick look/reminder of Fowler’s career offensive numbers:
Let us shift our focus to Charlie Blackmon. The St. Louis Cardinals were linked to Blackmon during the 2016 campaign via rumors so it makes sense to consider that he should be a name connected yet again. Blackmon was drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft by Colorado and will turn 31 during the 2017 season.
Blackmon has spent his entire career with Colorado and has some impressive numbers. That said, we must remember that these numbers have come in Colorado and must remember how this park (with its altitude) helps offensive numbers. To that, then, should the St. Louis Cardinals take the risk of moving him from the high altitude to the high humidity?
Before making any judgements or comparisons, let’s look at Blackmon’s career offensive numbers:
Looking at these numbers, perhaps Fowler should be concerned that he might have just been eclipsed by a viable competitor to knock him off and out of consideration… Let’s make a few comparisons. Fowler batted .276 in 2016 while Blackmon batted .324 (remember the help of playing in Colorado). Fowler slugged .447 in 2016 while Blackmon slugged .552 (altitude?).
Let’s move a little away from stats that could well be influenced by altitude. In these fields, Blackmon defeated Fowler again. Blackmon collected 187 hits in 578 at-bats where Fowler collected 126 in 456 at-bats. Notice that I did not mention the types of hits since I am working to avoid altitude-influence.
Blackmon also defeated Fowler in stolen bases which is something the Cardinals desperately need. In 2016, Blackmon stole seventeen bases and was caught nine times. Fowler stole thirteen and was caught four times. Blackmon, to his credit, was on the move more than Fowler and the Cardinals could really use an aggressive base runner.
Let’s look at Fowler’s home/away splits to remove the assistance of Rockies stadium:
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take these numbers. Even Blackmon’s away numbers work for me and would be an improvement over Grichuk who batted .240/.289/.480 at Busch in 2016.
Here’s the rub… defensively, Fowler carried a 1.0 UZR in 2016 at center field. Blackmon, everyone take a deep breath, carried a -10.4 UZR in 2016 at center field. For reference, Grichuk carried a -0.9 UZR so Blackmon would be a downgrade, not an upgrade over Grichuk.
Let us pretend for a moment that the defense numbers didn’t matter even though we know they completely matter. Money makes the world go around and it completely differentiates Fowler from Blackmon (aside from the statistics above). Fowler is a free agent with a qualifying offer attached. Blackmon, however, is under team control until 2019 and is facing arbitration this winter.
We all might soon know what value he has through arbitration but Blackmon was paid $3.5M in 2016 so he would certainly be less expensive than Fowler. Could the St. Louis Cardinals lock him up on a two-year deal to push him to free agency and platoon him with Harrison Bader to help both players’ defensive numbers?
Fowler, for comparison, was paid $8M in 2016 and, having just turned down his qualifying offer, is likely seeking a 3-5 year deal with a big purse. Fowler will likely need $18M+ to land while Blackmon could be had for $5-8M/year.
Price alone should not be a deciding factor. As a reminder to my point yesterday, picking up Fowler would mean forfeiting a draft pick. I’m just not sure the St. Louis Cardinals would take this risk/loss with the penalties for the Astros hacking scandal yet to come. It is assumed that the loss of picks after 2017 could be a likely penalty so I’m not sure the Cardinals would be wise to forfeit picks this season.
Having said that, I’m not really sure that Blackmon is the best option either. I personally like his offensive but I’m not sure he is worth the risk on defense. Perhaps Carlos Gomez (reviewed yesterday) would in actuality be a better selection than Blackmon. If I were to pick between Fowler or Blackmon then I would suggest Blackmon for fewer years (admitting the higher risk) to save the money and dig in for next year’s FA class.
Want your voice heard? Join the Redbird Rants team!
What do you think? Until the Cardinals land a new center fielder- if at all- I will spend the next couple of posts examining and comparing the available names against Fowler who we can assume is the hottest name in this season’s free agent class for center fielders. Check back and stay with us as we drive toward a selection!