Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

The GM Meetings have arrived, and, rather than serving as a proving ground to dispel the Chicago Cubs’ rumored connection to Alex Gordon, there’s yet another mention:

As with the previous rumors, that doesn’t mean the Cubs are definitely pursuing Gordon, as the “chatter” could be coming from any number of directions. But, still, there seems to be a lot of that chatter.

The Cubs-Gordon connection, though, has me thinking about a related topic that we should discuss: how much sense does it make to go after Gordon when the Cubs already have an outfielder that they could lock down in Dexter Fowler?

No, they don’t play the same position or even fill the same role in the lineup, but it’s certainly an interesting question, which was prompted back when the rumors started:

All projections have Gordon netting $30 to $50 million more than Fowler. Both players are attached to a qualifying offer, and both are 110 to 120 wRC+ type hitters, though Gordon has been more consistently better. Fowler arguably brings a little better baserunning and a higher-order defensive position (though his ability there is the subject of a great deal of debate). Gordon is a superlative defender, albeit in a corner outfield spot. Fowler, perhaps most notably, is a couple years younger.

I know what the WAR figures say, and I’m open to being convinced that I’m dramatically undervaluing the defensive difference, but I actually think these guys are pretty close in total value, which is what gives me pause when I see projections with Gordon getting a year longer deal at a much higher AAV than Fowler.

So the question, then: knowing that each player would cost the Cubs a draft pick (Gordon would cost the Cubs’ first rounder; Fowler would effectively cost the Cubs the pick they would have gotten just after the first round if he’d signed elsewhere), which would you want the Cubs to sign, if you had to choose between the two?

Straight up, maybe you go with Gordon. But when you consider the possible contracts? Would you want Fowler at, say, four years and $50 million, or Gordon at five years and, say, $90 million?

I haven’t dug in on this enough to have a strong opinion myself, and I’ll caution that this is all just an academic exercise, because it’s not necessarily a situation where the Cubs are having to pick between these two players (for one thing, we’re not certain that the Cubs definitely do want Gordon, and we’re also very aware that there are many other outfield options available beyond these two guys). But it’s interesting to think about.

And this all, of course, lends itself to the broader discussion of what the Cubs are to do in the outfield in 2016, given the moving parts on the corners, and the need in center field.

Of all the realistic options for the Cubs in center field in 2016, the only move I think I prefer to bringing Fowler back is Denard Span on a one-year, prove-it deal. Adding someone like Gordon, if it were paired with a thoughtful structure for center field (maybe Javy Baez really does get some looks out there, as folks who’ve seen him think he could be very good, and Joe Maddon mixes and matches the rest of the time), could be something I could get on board with. But, as I sit here today, simply bringing back Fowler, if he can be had on a reasonable deal, makes a lot more sense to me.

Even if it takes four years, Brett? What about the long-term, Brett? Are you worried about blocking prospects, Brett?

I think by now that most folks know I’m an Albert Almora believer. I think the bat is going to reach a level that can sustain him at the big league level when you consider the elite defense he brings in center field, and I think all of that could happen as soon as the second half of 2016, and certainly by 2017.

HOWEVA, I am never an advocate of eschewing reasonable moves at the big league level – especially smack dab in the middle of a competitive window – because a prospect could be on the way soon.

To be quite clear, if Fowler’s market takes him where I thought he would be going, rather than the lower level of the projections – as in, four or five years and $15+ million AAV – then this all is mostly mooted, because I don’t think the Cubs can do that deal and also take care of the other things they need to do this offseason.

But the more I see the Alex Gordon rumors, the more I think about Dexter Fowler. Maybe that’s a totally spurious connection, given the positional differences. But it’s about the use of financial assets (and a draft pick) on the offensive side. So this is where my mind goes.

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