Chicago Cubs: Breaking down needs heading into the winter

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Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Fair or Fowler? Will Dex return for 2016?

As we touched on earlier this week in one of our end-of-year review pieces, while he didn’t launch light-tower homers on a nightly basis, Dexter Fowler was arguably the most important piece to the Cubs’ puzzle in 2015.

A catchphrase for the team in its postseason run regarding Fowler was, “You go, we go.” Sure, it was a catchy motivational slogan for Joe Maddon to use, but it was undoubtedly true.

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In Chicago wins, Fowler posted a slash-line of .271/.376/.463, good for an .839 OPS. However, in the Cubs’ losses this year, the center fielder batted just .216/.296/.329, which clocks in over 200 points lower in terms of OPS (.625).

Make no mistake: Fowler will have countless suitors this offseason as he tests the waters of free agency. Epstein made it clear he’d like to talk to his outfielder about returning to the North Side, but there’s a decent shot that doesn’t happen for one reason or another.

So, apart from Fowler, what options does Chicago have moving forward?

You could, hypothetically, trot out a combination of Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan or Chris Denorfia, depending on the day – but that would leave the Cubs without a true leadoff man, a role Fowler executed well all year.

More likely, though, pieces like Denard Span or a back-up on this year’s club, Austin Jackson, would get long, hard looks as Fowler’s replacement. Both offer speed, which is something the Cubs need, and won’t fetch top-dollar on the open market, either, which is attractive.

Next: Shoring up the bullpen