On Friday, center fielder Dexter Fowler rejected his qualifying offer from the Chicago Cubs, consequently making him a free agent. The decision signifies Fowler’s belief that he can get more money in free agency than from the qualifying offer, which was only a 1-year deal worth $15.8 million.
Clearly, if the Cubs want Fowler back, it will take closer to $20 million a season to retain the switch-hitting lead-off man.
Even though his 2015 salary was only $9.5 million, the center fielder had a career year, achieving career bests with 596 at-bats, 102 runs, 149 hits, 84 walks, 17 home runs and 156 games played.
If Fowler does indeed decide to take his talent elsewhere, it will be a huge loss for the Cubs. The center fielder became the first legitimate lead-off hitter the team had since Juan Pierre in 2006, (yes, sorry Alfonso Soriano) as his offense became vital to the team’s success each game.
To put things into perspective, the Cubs went 75-44 during the regular season in games where Fowler had either a hit or a walk. Clearly, if he was doing well at the plate, the Cubs offense was rolling.
Many feel that the Cubs should just let Fowler leave and sign an outfielder for a year or so until 2012 first round pick Albert Almora is ready to take over. The thought process here would be to sign an outfielder who is good on defense so Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler‘s defense can be masked.
The problem here is that Fowler’s defense is not as bad as you think. In 2015, he made only four errors, good enough for a .988 fielding percentage.
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While he was only ranked 15th in the MLB (minimum 110 games in center fielder) Fowler was only percentage points away from being in the Top 10. So what is all the fuss about?
Schwarber only played 45 games in the outfield, so whatever “problems” he may have can be critiqued and fixed. After all, the hope is that he will be the team’s starting catcher in the future, so fans and critics alike need to realize his career lies at a different position.
The same goes for Soler, who has only played in 119 career games, including just 95 in 2015. He may take some quirky routes on fly balls, but his .993 fielding percentage shows he makes plays almost 100 percent of the time.
With that being said, the team could sign a good defensive center fielder, but it really is not that critical.
All in all, the Cubs need to do whatever they can to bring back Fowler, even if this means they cannot sign a big free agent like David Price or Zack Greinke. The team can always trade for starting pitching, and signing a pitcher in his 30’s for $200 million or more might not be the best idea.
Even with Almora knocking on the doors at Clark and Addison, Fowler presents the best option for the team at this time. Almora is no sure thing, as he has not played a game in the big leagues yet.
Fowler’s track record speaks for itself, so if the opportunity to resign him presents itself, the Cubs need to do it.