Ask Away: Fowler's Option, the Neighborhood Play, Almora, Disney Movies and More!

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Ask Away: Fowler’s Option, the Neighborhood Play, Almora, Disney Movies and More!

Chicago Cubs

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Since last week, I’ve received a lot of new, awesome questions for Ask Away.

From Logan Watkins, to David Ross, to broadcasting rights and more, you guys have been doing a great job.

So, here’s yet another thanks to everyone who took the time to send in your ideas, comments and questions about the Chicago Cubs: Thanks.

If you recall, you can send in your questions (about anything!) for a chance to be featured in an upcoming Ask Away, by emailing them to AskAway at BleacherNation dot com.

Last week, we discussed Addison Russell in the nine-spot, the expected roster crunch (that conversation has certainly changed), and 2016 predictions for homers, All-stars, pitcher hits and more! This week, well, you’ll see.

Ask Away…

If the 2017 mutual option on Dexter Fowler’s contract is not exercised, can the Cubs still extend Fowler a qualifying offer? Kirk E.

First of all, in case you missed it, I took a relatively deep dive into Draft Pick Compensation and the web of confusion it caused Cubs fans this offseason, earlier today. I suggest reading it, if you have any questions on how it all works.

On your question about Dexter Fowler, specifically, the short answer is yes … probably.

Dexter Fowler has signed an $8 million deal with the Chicago Cubs for 2016. His deal also comes with a mutual option worth $9 million for 2017, which is highly unlikely to be exercised (they vary rarely are). If that option is left unused, Fowler will receive a $5 million buyout from the Cubs, bringing the total bill to $13 million (which is why you so frequently see his deal labeled as a 1 year/$13 million contract).

At the end of 2016, then, the Chicago Cubs will be able to extend Fowler a qualifying offer (likely worth around $16-$17 million) that he will most likely reject, once again. In that case, the Cubs will be eligible for draft pick compensation, once he signs with another team.

I said “probably,” though, for a reason. There have been unique clauses used in past contracts (Yoenis Cespedes with the Oakland A’s) that make players ineligible for a qualifying offer; however, no such clause has been reported for Fowler, so the assumption is that extending a qualifying offer will be allowed.

BONUS answer from Brett: I am regularly getting asked about the buyout on that mutual option from folks who are wondering if Fowler forgoes the buyout if the Cubs exercise their half of the option but Fowler declines (thus making the signing a complete steal at just $8 million for 2016). The answer is that he very probably still gets the buyout. While there have been some mutual options structured in this way – one side goes, then the other side goes, and it costs the player the buyout to head to free agency – that is not always the case. I’ve asked around on this particular deal and I don’t have the answer yet. My guess, though, based on the contract and Fowler’s market is that he gets the buyout either way. You’re 99% safe just assuming that.

Now that the neighborhood play is reviewable, do you believe that more middle infielders will “eat the ball” during bang-bang double plays? If so, what do you believe the impact on the game will be? – Eric H.

Ah … another topic we discussed earlier today. Have you all done your homework?

As Eric correctly alludes, the neighborhood play will finally be reviewable in 2016. What that means, of course, is that middle infielders will actually be required to possess the ball and touch the base simultaneously during the exchange of a double play.

I strongly suspect that it will take some time for infielders (on the play itself), managers (on when to challenge) and umpires (on how to correctly call it) a good deal of time to adjust to the rule, especially early in the season.

In fact, I am tentatively expecting a lot of arguments to arise from the situation, being that baseball has never experienced this issue before. As we saw last year – countless, countless times – infielders have taken advantage of the neighborhood just as much (if not more) than runners going hard into the base.

And while I believe this will be good for the sport in the long run, there will definitely be some growing pains along the way. To your original question, then, I do believe the frequency with which infielders are “eating the ball,” will increase, as long as managers are challenging and umpires are calling the plays correctly. It could get frustrating for a little while.

Several prospect ranking publications have dropped Albert Almora considerably over the past year – one even leaving him out of the top 100 completely. Do you think his bat will ever develop into a starting-caliber MLB CF? – Cory S.

Before we dive into the question itself, let’s recap just where Albert Almora has been ranked by various publications over this past winter.

So as not to mislead you, I’d like to remind you that the ZiPS and KATOH prospect rankings are algorithm/math-based projections, used more commonly to predict eventual big league performance. As far as nearly all other rankings go, those lofty projections are somewhat of an outlier. Almora can more frequently be found at the back end of most top 100s.

However, I do think Almora will be able to develop a Major League quality bat and it could happen as soon as 2016. As we learned during his recent Q&A, Almora has just recently come to embrace the “Cubs approach” at the plate. What he once perceived as a directive to work more walks, has since been corrected. Now, according to Almora, he understands that the directive is to wait for his pitch – something he can really drive – while letting everything else go by. If the byproduct of that approach results in more walks, in addition to driving more pitches, everybody wins.

From July 2 until the end of the 2015 season, Almora slashed .304/.368/.470 (.838 OPS). With excellent defense in the outfield, Almora won’t have to hit nearly that well in MLB to carry his weight in center.

And now for the personal, funny and anything-else-that-comes-to-mind part, let’s talk about media-stuff. Ask away …

What is your all time favorite Disney Movie? Shane (SSCKelley)

I’m not sure if you’ll allow me to include Disney-Pixar in this category, but I’m the one writing here, so I’m going to.

In that case, I absolutely love all three ‘Toy Story’ movies (Rashida Jones is actually writing Toy Story 4, in case you didn’t know), and ‘Monster’s Inc.’ is also one of my all time favorites.

But, despite my age and rugged manliness, I have to give the nod to the recent ‘Inside Out’. The full force of nostalgia pushes me towards ‘Toy Story’, but ‘Inside Out’ was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. I especially loved the ‘Lava’ short that preceeds it enough to purchase it on iTunes, seriously. (And … yup now I’m watching/listening to it.)

What are some of your favorite books about baseball? Matt E.

Although I really do enjoy reading, I don’t do it nearly enough. I recently finished ‘A Game of Thrones’, but then I only made it half-way through ‘A Clash of Kings’, before giving up.

That said, I was recently gifted an extremely interesting baseball book called ‘Wrigley Field: The Long Life & Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines’ by Stuart Shea, that I fully intend on opening soon.

I asked Brett this question, as well, and his response was ‘The Extra 2%’ by Jonah Keri – a book about the Tampa Bay Rays.

What is the last song you sang in the shower? Shane (SSCKelley)

(Don’t say Taylor Swift, don’t say Taylor Swift, don’t say Taylor Swift) … Taylor Swift. Crap.

Although I most frequently find myself humming one of T. Swift’s lyrical masterpieces in the shower, the actual last song I sang in the shower was ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen. I can’t get enough of it, it pumps me up.

Okay, until next week, friends. Remember, you can send your questions in to AskAway at BleacherNation dot com.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami