For at least a few reasons, we have remained unusually tuned in to Dexter Fowler’s free agent journey, this offseason,
First, and most loosely, Fowler made a big impact on Cubs fans last season. He was, after all, an important player on one of the best Cubs teams in recent memory. He was the lead-off man and center fielder on an NLCS team, always in the spotlight.
Second, Fowler stays in our minds because of the qualifying offer/compensation pick dilemma. If and when Fowler signs with another team, the Cubs will receive a compensation pick in the 2016 draft. If you recall the rules, this is because the Cubs have extended Fowler a qualifying offer at the end of the 2015 season. As it stands, the Cubs have already lost their first and second round picks for signing Jason Heyward and John Lackey, but if Fowler signs with someone before June, the Cubs will get their second round pick back (because then they’d instead lose their first rounder and the compensatory pick they got for Fowler). If he doesn’t, that pick goes away.
Still, the the connection remains and it isn’t coming completely out of left field. In an article for MLB.com, for example, Anthony Castrovince assesses the five best free fits for free agent Dexter Fowler and the Cubs make an appearance at the end. Indeed, behind the White Sox, Angels, Cardinals and Rangers, the Chicago Cubs are listed as one of the possible landing spots for Dexter Fowler.
But do we really feel that way?
Sure, the Cubs are among the speculative group of remaining favorites, but it feels as though they are present out of obligation. Even Castrovince acknowledges that signing Fowler would almost certainly necessitate a trade of Jorge Soler – something the Cubs have been unwilling to do thus far and would struggle to do at this point in the offseason, anyway. And if there was not a trade, would Fowler really want to sign on to be a fourth outfielder after his fantastic 2015 season? Especially, for a team that already has a starting calibre Chris Coghlan on the bench? Probably not. Even a one year deal to try again for the big payday in 2017 wouldn’t really make sense for Fowler/Cubs, because, absent a trade, he might not get enough playing time to prove himself.
I’d be thrilled to have Fowler back, but I just don’t see it happening. Still, as long as he’s a free agent and the speculation is out there, I suppose anything is possible. What’s most likely, though, is that he signs with a team on a 2-4 year deal and the Cubs get their second round pick back.
That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?