St. Louis Cardinals Sign Center Fielder Dexter Fowler

The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to terms with former Chicago Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler on a 5-year deal.

St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak boarded a flight back to St. Louis yesterday and it appeared as if he left Winter Meetings with no early Christmas present for Cardinals fans. Then some interesting news broke about outfielder Dexter Fowler later last night. He was reportedly headed on a flight from Las Vegas to St. Louis for a physical.

That news turned out to be true as the Cardinals held a press conference this morning to announce a deal with Fowler, who put on a No. 25 Cardinals jersey. The former Cub and recent world champ will be a Cardinal in 2017.

The deal appears to be for 5 years and $82.5M with a full no-trade clause, according to Ken Rosenthal. Well, there you have it. Mozeliak got his man.

It will be interesting to see how Cardinal Nation reacts to the news throughout the day. Most fans have appeared to fallen into the hype for Fowler since he was connected to the Cardinals even before Winter Meetings.

I have not been one of those advocates. A little while back, I wrote why I believed that Randal Grichuk still deserves a chance in center field and that the best route would be to keep him there and go after a power-hitting left fielder this offseason. That piece also has some of my thoughts on Fowler as well. You can read it here.

Nevertheless, Mozeliak made his bed, so now the franchise lays in it. Time will tell if this deal pays off. My first thought is that the Cardinals seemed to over pay just a bit — $16.5M a year for a guy like Fowler (who will turn 31 years old in March) is quite a commitment. But Mozeliak and company were intent on getting a center fielder and kudos to him for being willing to get it done.

Hopefully, this isn’t the only move the Cardinals make this offseason. There is still much to be done for this team to improve in 2017 and get back in the postseason. I recently wrote about why free agent third baseman Justin Turner would make sense for the Cardinals, and if the Dodgers end up making a trade for Todd Frazier then Turner’s market could drop with Mozeliak possibly getting in on acquiring his bat. Turner would be a fantastic compliment to Fowler in the middle of the Cardinals lineup for the next handful of years and a great defensive upgrade at third base.

So, what does the Fowler deal look like for the Cardinals lineup next season? Fowler led all MLB leadoff hitters with a fantastic .393 On Base Percentage in 2016. The next guy right behind him — Matt Carpenter, who posted a .386 OBP in the leadoff spot.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the Fowler deal is the Cardinals now have someone who can legitimately take over the leadoff spot in the lineup allowing Carpenter to slide into a more RBI-producing role in the second or three-hole, which I like the sound of.

Fowler also produced a 4.7 fWAR last season, which would have led the Cardinals in that category. Carpenter led the team with a 3.2 fWAR.

I would caution lowering expectations with Fowler, though. The 30-year old has a career .367 OBP out of the leadoff spot, which is still solid but probably unrealistic to believe he can post another .390-plus OBP season.

As of now, my projected lineup card for the Cardinals looks something like this in 2017:

Fowler
Diaz
Carpenter
Piscotty
Molina
Grichuk
Peralta/Gyorko
Wong

That’s not too shabby. But again, adding another guy like Turner in the 2 or 4-hole would take the Cardinals’ lineup to a whole other level.

Obviously, the worst part of this deal is the Cardinals surrender a first round pick to the Cubs. But for now, at least, Mozeliak is proving that he may finally be ready to break open the Cardinals’ piggy bank and spend some money this offseason and in future ones.

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What are your initial thoughts on the Fowler deal? Let me know on Twitter. Also, stay tuned here at Redbird Rants for a more in-depth analysis and reaction of the deal and everything St. Louis Cardinals this offseason.

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