The Dexter Fowler Talk is Just Talk, Right?

Chicago Cubs batter Dexter Fowler rounds the bases after hitting a solo homer during the third inning on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Chicago Cubs batter Dexter Fowler rounds the bases after hitting a solo homer during the third inning on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The rumblings have been there all offseason long. Granted, they’ve never really been taken seriously, but all offseason long there have been whispers, rumors and suggestions that the Cubs might consider resigning outfielder Dexter Fowler if the price was right.

Even after the Cubs announced the monster deal they struck with Jason Heyward – which I would’ve thought would kill the rumors – the talk continued, albeit more quietly. Yet, here we are, less than three weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting to the spring training complex in Mesa and the rumors persist.

Not only that, but they seem to be gaining steam. According to a Bruce Levine article earlier this week – in which he quotes an anonymous source – at least one baseball exec seems to think the Cubs are not only interested, but the most likely landing place for the oddly-still-available outfielder.

Despite the fact that his average and on-base percentage both took a hit last year when compared to previous seasons, those numbers are a bit skewed by an anemic first half. Or, more appropriately, a Godawful two-month stretch in May and June in which he batted .189 AVG/.293 OBP/.377 SLG and .240/.286/.356, respectively.

Then July rolled around and Fowler exploded, batting .275/.411/.396 followed by a robust .298/.408/.587 (.587 slugging!!!) month of August. In total, Fowler batted .272/.389/.463 in the second half of the season – which is more than enough to warrant a decent contract. But to date, he still hasn’t gotten one.

Assumedly, the fact that Spring Training is fast-approaching is only further driving down the price teams are willing to pay. Hence the interest he seems to be drawing from both the Cubs and White Sox. That’s understandable.

But what I don’t understand is exactly what the Cubs would plan to do with Fowler. The easy answer would be to move Heyward to his natural position in right field and allow Fowler to patrol center, but that winds up displacing either Jorge Soler or Kyle Schwarber. As I’ve repeated all offseason long, I think trading Soler for anything less than a laughably overwhelming haul is a terrible idea.

Under contract for about $3.3M per year until 2021 and with the potential to be legitimate All-Star-caliber player with monstrous power, I just don’t see any circumstance (other than having inside knowledge of a serious health concern or mechanical flaw) in which it makes sense to deal him. That is, of course, unless the Rays decided they wanted to send us Chris Archer and a handful of their other young hurlers.

As the chances of that are about the same as me winning the lottery (that I don’t play), I just don’t see a way that a Soler trade makes sense.

That leaves the Cubs with only one other option that I can think of, and it’s one that I’m not sure they’d be interested in: Trading Miguel Montero, moving Schwarber behind the plate full-time and the moving Soler to left with Heyward in right and Fowler in center.

In theory, this could work, and it may improve the team’s overall offensive output. Not only that, but chances are that the defensive hit the Cubs would take behind the plate as Schwarber continues to learn the position would be evened out by the defensive improvement that adding Fowler and removing Schwarber would create in the outfield.

But based on comments we’ve heard from Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer all winter long, the Cubs have no plans of playing Schwarber behind the plate full time. They’d like to play him there occasionally and allow him to continue learning the position, it seems, and then wait to see what happens with Willson Contreras down in the minors.

So, that doesn’t exactly put much credence in my move-Montero-put-Schwarber-behind-the-plate idea. Which brings me back to my original point: This Dexter Fowler stuff is just talk, right? Because given that the only realistic option that brings Fowler back to the North Side is trading Soler, the deal just doesn’t seem worth it. No matter what Fowler ends up costing.

But let me leave you with this: What if the Cubs decided to move Montero. What if they signed Fowler to a one- or two-year deal. What if they played Soler in left, Fowler in center and Heyward in right, then moved Schwarber behind the plate to start the year. What if they just took some time to see how that worked out.

If Contreras plays well in the minors and Schwarber struggles behind the plate, then the Cubs could – again, in theory – call him up, move Schwarber back to the outfield and trade Fowler at the deadline. Or, if Schwarber plays well enough, that gives Contreras a full year to develop in the minors. And then next year, Fowler could sign elsewhere over the offseason (assuming a one-year deal), Schwarber could head back to the outfield and Contreras could take over behind the plate.

That’s an idea I’d be okay with. But realistically it’s not happening. And, for that reason, I hope a Fowler signing isn’t happening either.

Follow me on Twitter @MidwayJME