In a press conference earlier today, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of former Cub, World Series champion, and fan-favorite Dexter Fowler.
While it was certainly hard to watch him put on the red and white uniform (he’ll wear #25, because #24 is retired), Cubs fans can take some solace in the fact that at least Fowler got downright paaaaaid.
Not a year after free agency took him (essentially) into Spring Training, Fowler has signed a five-year deal with the Cardinals worth $82.5 million, and it reportedly comes with a full no-trade clause. The deal he turned down last season with the Orioles (just before returning to the Cubs on a one-year, prove-it type deal) was for just three years and $33 million. He did good.
I watched the press conference and took some notes, so let’s do a bit of a bulleted style recap of some of the things he said. And just in case you still can’t believe it, believe it:
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) December 9, 2016
- Again, the final deal for Fowler was five years/$82.5 million, which works out to a bit over $16 million per year. Over five years, that’s just a fantastic deal for Fowler. In fact, that average annual value is actually the highest on the Cardinals for anyone not named Adam Wainwright, so you can bet the Cardinals really wanted him. And if it makes you feel any better, it sounds like they really had to work for it.
- When asked what the market was like for Fowler, he responded that there were definitely a number of interested teams, but at the end of the day he had to go with his gut and that led him to the Cardinals. With that said, he added that he was prepared to stretch out the negotiations as long as necessary considering what he went through last season, to which Cardinals GM John Mozeliak immediately quipped, “It felt like that to me.” There was also an uncomfortable anecdote shared, wherein Mozeliak was struggling to get Fowler on the phone, to which Fowler said he was “in a dentist chair.” It sounds funny, but the tone and subsequent, “Yeah, that was a first for me,” from Mozeliak afterwards was definitely unusual. [Brett: It’s hard to describe exactly, but I’d agree with Michael here – there were strangely awkward moments sprinkled throughout.]
- But to be fair, it does sound like Mozeliak and the rest of the Cardinals just really wanted Fowler. He was apparently their focus from day one of the offseason, and they were extremely relieved and excited to get a deal done. From their perspective, the addition of Fowler was important in two ways. On the field, Fowler will increase the team’s athleticism, provide a top of the order hitter (so that Matt Carpenter can move down), and add another confident base runner. Off the field, the Cardinals know that Fowler is a student of the game who has evolved as a person and a player over the past few seasons, that he wants to be a leader and have a voice in the clubhouse, and that he is going to be a big part of the community. I agree with all of the above.
- On why/how he chose the Cardinals, Fowler offered the ole “culture” story. He called St. Louis a baseball city, adding that every time you come here you see red everywhere. They have a winning culture and a strong chance to return to the World Series, so that’s where he wanted to be.
- And if you’re thinking, “BUT DEX, SO DO THE CUBS!”, it might not have been as simple as that. The door to the Cubs, it seems, was not entirely open. With that said, Fowler was unbelievably proud of his time spent in Chicago, and was appreciative of the call the front office gave him before the Jon Jay signing was reported (that’s pretty classy). For what it’s worth, he added that neither Jason Heyward nor John Lackey impacted his decision either way.
- In 2017 and beyond, Fowler expects to play center field for the Cardinals, but suggested that if there was another, better player he’d gladly move over to a corner to do what’s best for the team. “If I’m not good in center, trust me, I’ll move over.” He also added that he believes in his skills as a center fielder after playing in the spacious park in Colorado and the windy center-field of Wrigley. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, but he was asked about it more than once, so there ya go.
- On leading off, Fowler is confident (as we know), because he’s done it his entire career. He knows that getting on base is what matters most and even brought up the “You go, we go,” mantra that Joe Maddon coined in Chicago (no, those aren’t tears on my cheek, I was just cutting an onion while writing this article, okay?).
- On whether Fowler intends on changing the Cardinals’ culture or embracing it (I have no idea why there were so many questions about culture, but whatever), Fowler explained that he can be a quiet, reserved, and thoughtful teammate, but also that he has his own personality and won’t be afraid to show it. “If I go in a clubhouse, we’re gonna have fun. Win, lose, or draw, let’s have fun.”
- On facing the Cubs on Opening Day, Fowler said it’ll be bittersweet, suggesting that “now, they’re [the Cubs] the rival,” but they’re still his boys.
- And finally, with Fowler in the fold, Mozeliak and the Cardinals only plan on adding complementary pieces to the roster. No more “boulder-moving” transactions are expected. To be fair, the Cardinals did add a nice reliever (Brett Cecil) and a solid center fielder (Fowler), spending over $100 million in the process. They’re not going to let the Cubs just run away with anything, so be prepared for a fight – a fight led off by Dexter Fowler in red.
Blink twice if they're making you say nice things, Dex. pic.twitter.com/iCH8tn5qv2
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) December 9, 2016
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) December 9, 2016