It is official. After weeks of reports suggesting the Cubs were looking to add an every day outfielder, it was announced today that Dexter Fowler will be heading to Wrigley in exchange for Dan Straily and Luis Valbuena. The move leaves the 40-man roster at 39.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 19, 2015
Fowler, who turns 29 in March, has one year left on his current contract and is arbitration eligible. It was reported that Fowler filed for around $10 mil and the Astros offered $8.5 mil, so expect the Cubs to strike a deal within that range. The addition of Fowler adds around $4 million to their total 2015 cap, which is no big thing.
First, before getting into Fowler’s value and what he brings to the Cubs, let’s talk about the pieces given up in order to land the switch-hitting outfielder. Dan Straily is a major league ready pitcher who could still be pretty good. At 26-years-old, Straily has three years of MLB experience with success as a full time starter in his days with Oakland. In the Cubs case, however, Straily looked to be the 8th or 9th rotation option given their current depth. So really, they didn’t have much use for him.
Looking back, the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade continues to look better and better. The Cubs eventually gained Dexter Fowler, Addison Russell, Hammel again, and Billy McKinney (it always makes me happy to bring up that trade).
As for the other player the Cubs traded, this one stings a bit. Luis Valbuena is a very valuable asset to this club with strong defensive production, as well as versatility in the infield. His production at the plate was something of value as well, as he was always among the best at getting on base and putting together good at-bats. Valbuena has two years of control remaining, as opposed to Fowler’s one.
Though Valbuena is a difficult piece to part ways with, it makes sense in the overall scheme of things. The master of the bat flip was quickly running out of positions to play in the Cubs system filled with depth. Kris Bryant will almost surely be up with the club by as early as mid-April, while others including Arismendy Alcantara, Tommy La Stella and Javier Baez provide value in their respective ways.
Alcantara can literally play anywhere, including third base, while La Stella and Baez may each find themselves somewhere in the infield as well. Until Kris Bryant gets called up, Mike Olt seems like a likely candidate to man the fort. With the amount of flexibility and depth the Cubs have on their roster, moving Valbuena makes sense, though I would be lying if I said its easy to let him go.
Now on to Dexter Fowler. He is exactly the kind of stable lead-off hitter the Cubs have been longing for this offseason. Fowler also acts as an everyday outfielder who can play a corner spot, as well as center field. His value also extends to being a great on-the-field leader. An article by Brain McTaggart of the Astros beat focused a lot on Fowler’s relationship with Houston’s young outfielder, George Springer. Fowler pretty much took him under his wing and helped the rookie outfielder adjust to the challenges at the major league level. I’m sure there is a young player or two on the Cubs roster Fowler will be able to make good relationships with.
Dexter Fowler is a great addition to the current Cubs club. With one year remaining on his contract, Fowler acts as a holder — a good one at that — until players such as Albert Almora and Alcantara are ready to perform regularly at the big league level. Without looking ahead to 2016, Dexter Fowler adds a ton of value to the Cubs lineup and it could become quite dangerous come May.
Fowler hit .276/.375/.399 last year with 21 doubles and eight home runs as an Astro. He also boasts a career .366 OBP with a strong K/BB ratio and an above average walk rate of 13%. Fowler is often credited for being one of, if not the most disciplined hitters in Major League Baseball, along with having an exceptional eye at the plate.
Expect Fowler to be a consistent lead off hitter for the Cubs who can play either center field or a corner outfield position. Depth and flexibility continues to be added for a Joe Maddon lead ball club set up to succeed. The lineup could look like this come May:
- Acantara/La Stella/Baez
This is beginning to get fun. April 5th can’t come soon enough.