Although there are many Cubs-relevant reasons to keep tabs on Dexter Fowler’s continued free agency – Michael reiterated them earlier this week – the idea that the Cubs could actually re-sign the center fielder has been very low on that list. The draft pick, the market impact, the competitive impact, and the plain-old fan interest in seeing where a former player lands. Those have been the reasons to follow the Fowler story, and they are reason enough for me.
But that part about the Cubs possibly re-signing Dexter Fowler has persisted, too, albeit almost exclusively from one corner. Dating back into December, Bruce Levine has reported at various times that the Cubs could still try to retain Fowler, suggesting that the Cubs would deal Jorge Soler to open up a spot. At other times, Levine’s reports have merely left Fowler on the Cubs’ radar, which admittedly does make sense: if there was a small chance that the Cubs were going to deal Soler for young pitching anyway, then they’d want to have a plan to fill that void in the outfield quickly and effectively if that Soler deal came together. So, then, as long as Fowler is still a free agent, the Cubs might as well stay in touch, because you don’t know if a trade might present itself that you can’t refuse, however unlikely that scenario may be.
You can and should read Levine’s report for yourself to get the context, and I’d urge you to keep in mind that this is (1) one executive, (2) making his/her best guess. The other team discussed at length, which makes more sense to me, is the White Sox.
That said, Levine gets a little extra listening from me this offseason after he was on the Cubs’ interest in Jason Heyward well before anyone else (and that was a pursuit that we know the Cubs managed to keep highly secret for a long time).
For my part, while I don’t think it’s impossible that Fowler winds up back with the Cubs in 2016, I definitely wouldn’t call it likely. As presently constructed, the roster is a tough fit for Fowler, if, for example, he decided it was time to cut bait and take a one-year deal with an eye toward next offseason. If he goes that route, he can do a lot better than a team that currently sports four starting-caliber outfielders already. Moreover, that kind of inexpensive one-year deal is about all I could really see the Cubs wanting to do. There is a misalignment of fits right now, even as much as you might otherwise like to dream about an obscenely loaded outfield.
More plausibly, as many have been suggesting for weeks, the fit here develops if the Cubs were to trade Soler, slide Jason Heyward to right field, and then return Fowler to center. But that’s only a realistic fit, in my mind, if the Cubs were already finding a killer trade involving Soler that they would want to do regardless of anything related to Fowler. I don’t see that deal coming along at this point, and thus I don’t see a reunion between Fowler and the Cubs.
But, hey, he’s still out there, and at least one credible report continues to connect them. Further, whether he comes to the Cubs or not, where he lands (and when) is highly relevant to the Cubs, so we’ll keep following.