Dexter Fowler and the 2016 Center Field Question

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Dexter Fowler and the 2016 Center Field Question

Chicago Cubs

dexter fowler smileDexter Fowler has been awesome this year, and particularly in the second half. Fowler is playing solid defense, is hitting .253/.350/.432 and has paced the Cubs’ offense for two months now. He’ll be a vital part of the Cubs’ run the rest of the season, and on into the playoffs.

But what about after that?

As Patrick Mooney correctly writes, and hears from a source familiar with the Cubs’ thinking, Dexter Fowler is going to get a qualifying offer from the Cubs after the season. I don’t know why this was ever a question – even when Fowler wasn’t producing like he has been for the past couple months – given his age (29), track record (well above-average hitter going on five years straight), and the Cubs’ at-least-one-year need in the outfield. Without an obvious replacement in center field for 2016, Fowler accepting a one-year, $16ish million qualifying offer from the Cubs would actually be a pretty fantastic scenario.

Much more likely, Fowler declines the offer to explore free agency (depressed slightly by the qualifying offer, and which maybe puts an extension in the Cubs’ price range (though I doubt it)), signs elsewhere, and the Cubs get a compensatory draft pick. Thus, the offer always made sense.

The tougher question (it’s been on the table since early April) remains how aggressively the Cubs pursue re-signing Fowler, who is an obvious fit, will be only 30 next year, and is a huge part of the Cubs’ offensive success.

It’s easy for folks to say, “Heck yeah, a three year deal with Fowler totally makes sense!” … because I can’t see him getting only three-year offers. Perhaps some suitors will be turned off by his arguably average defense, but free agency always seems to get guys at least a year more and millions more than you expect. A four or five-year deal out there for Fowler would not surprise me in the least, and, if that’s where the bidding goes, I’m not sure the Cubs should devote their resources there, given the pitching needs.

Then again, if not Fowler, what exactly do the Cubs do in center field next year? Albert Almora won’t be ready (and it’s not fair to assume he definitely will be in the future). Could the Cubs try to bring back Austin Jackson? He only just got here, and has been trending in the wrong direction for a few years. But maybe he clicks in Chicago? Could the Cubs try Kris Bryant out there for a bridge year or two? Another infielder out there? It’s all possible, but it’s going to be an interesting question heading into the offseason.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.