A deeper look at what Dexter Fowler brings to the Chicago Cubs


The Chicago Cubs made a bit of unexpected news in Monday, acquiring Dexter Fowler from the Houston Astros in exchange for Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily. On the surface it’s a win/win for both teams. with Kris Bryant nearing the call, Valbuena was simply keeping the bag warm before transitioning to a “super sub” had he stayed. The Astros needed an established player, and he will get a chance to win the Astros starting job. Straily had no place in the Cubs staff, so there was no loss there. In Fowler, the Cubs get the on-base guy they were looking for, as their center fielders as a group last year were worst in the league.

After spending six seasons in Colorado, he made his way to Houston for a brief one-year stay. Fowler will be reunited with his hitting coach from last season John Mallee who became the Cubs new hitting coach this off-season. Mallee made sure to let the Cubs front office know his thought on Fowler at the plate.

"“The biggest thing John kept saying to us is, ‘This guy really puts on an at-bat … he sees pitches, he gets on base,'” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday. “[Mallee said], ‘It’s a pleasure to watch this guy execute an at-bat.'” h/t Carrie Muskat, MLB.com"

After spending time in Colorado, it’s clear that Fowler won’t bring a lot of power with him as 13 home runs was his top output in the thin air of Coors Field. But the Cubs didn’t get him for his pop, it was for his ability to see pitches, put the ball in play and get on base.

With a career line of .271/.366./.419, and an OPS of .786, the Cubs got a solid pick-up, essentially for a waiver wire pick up and a trade toss-in. Fowler’s addition at the top of the lineup will be critical, his defense will leave some questions. He’s only played one game in the field outside of center, and is currently sixth on the active list of errors committed as a center fielder.

So when looking at his WAR numbers, his oWAR (Defensive value excluded) is around a 3.0, which is solid as a 5.0 is considered “All-Star”. But then looking at his dWAR (Offensive value excluded), the holes in his game are exposed. Last year he posted a -1.8, the worst of his career. With an overall WAR of about 1.6, the numbers show him to be more “average” because of his defensive liability. With 730 games played in center, it’s hard to imagine something different. Chris Coghlan would be the most apt to slide over, as he’s played 95 games there with a 1.000 fielding percentage, but he’s not an ideal fit.

Sometime you have to trade a little to get a little. In this case, with the struggles of the team last season to get on base consistently, the team was willing to give up something of defense. In the end I see it as a good fit. Should the Cubs only keep him for one-year, as they inherited his arbitration case, would at the list be a bridge to the future. Arismendy Alcantara is still looking for his place, but his versatility essentially makes him the new super-sub for the Cubs. Albert Almora, one of the remaining “Core Four”, could be ready this fall.

Only time will tell what the Cubs endgame in the outfield will be. But in this case they strengthened their options for whatever the decision is.

Next: Have the Cubs tipped their hand for their plans at third base?