It is official. Dexter Fowler is a free agent.
Yesterday, Fowler declined the $17.2 million dollar qualifying offer by the Chicago Cubs. This marks the second consecutive year he has declined the Cubs’ qualifying offer. It is reported that Fowler is in search of a multi-year deal with the Cardinals, Rangers, Giants and Mariners rumored to be interested. While the Cubs have said they would monitor the situation closely and they have not ruled out a return for Fowler, it seems likely that Fowler has played his last game for the Cubs.
Going into the 2016 season the Cubs were looking at the possibility of Jason Heyward in center field with Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber patrolling the corners. Ben Zobrist was figured to fill in when needed but was expected to play second base a majority of the season. Javier Baez was trained in the outfield to make the 25-man roster.
Fast forward and the Cubs have a logjam in the outfield, with no less than eight players on their 25-man roster who played some time in the outfield last year. Kyle Schwarber seems like he has the most stability as the clubs projected left fielder. Currently penciled in to replace Fowler in center is Jason Heyward, though there are some questions about his bat and whether or not moving him to center field would negatively affect his gold glove winning defense.
Another option for center field is slick fielding Albert Almora Jr. Almora, 22, is currently projected as a bench bat for the Cubs but his defense has been considered Major League ready for years now. Almora’s bat is not nearly as advanced as that of Fowler but he has shown the ability in smaller samples to be able to provide adequate production. Last year, Almora, slashed .277 in 117 at-bats in the majors, with a .303 average in 336 at-bats for the AAA Iowa Cubs.
From all indications center field belongs to Heyward in 2017 but things can always change. Do not forget that Fowler surprised his teammates by re-signing with the Cubs in late February, after Spring Training had already started. While unlikely to happen again, with the Cubs seemingly anything is possible these days.
Photo from: WGN-TV