Shocking twist has Dexter Fowler back with Chicago Cubs

Oct 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) smiles after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the NLDS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) smiles after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the NLDS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

What in the world? How did the Cubs manage to pry Dexter Fowler away from the Orioles?

Just yesterday it looked like Dexter Fowler would join the Baltimore Orioles on a three-year contract worth $35 million. A day later, an unexpected turn of events stimulated a reunion between the switch-hitting outfielder and the Chicago Cubs to a one-year, $8 million deal with a mutual option and buyout in 2017.

The day started with a trade of Chris Coghlan to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Aaron Brooks, which sparked conversation over what would come next.

Shortly thereafter, reports surfaced Fowler had re-signed with the Cubs and any further questions surrounding the outfield had been put to rest.

More from Chicago Cubs News

The whole situation was so unorthodox. Not only is it irregular to have a player of Fowler’s caliber available this late into the offseason, but for him to completely shift gears from a deal that only needed some I’s to be dotted and T’s to be crossed makes this move even more dramatic.

Apparently there was a complication over an opt-out clause between the Orioles and Fowler which pushed the soon-to-be 30-year-old back to Chicago.

During a press conference, Theo Epstein said Fowler believed there was, “unfinished business” with the Cubs. Fowler ultimately opted for a reunion based on comfortably and an opportunity to win as opposed to the money.

The acquisition certainly shakes the roster up a bit, but in an ultra positive way. Prior to the Coghlan trade, it was unrealistic to consider Fowler as an option due in large part to the imbalance of available playing time among what would have been five outfielders, plus Javier Baez.

With Coghlan in Oakland, the Dexter Fowler signing makes the already stacked Cubs even better.

It allows Jason Heyward to stay in right field, where he is arguably the best player in baseball at that position while also seeing time in center. Fowler, too, would man center where he succeeded last year. He could fill in at a corner spot as well, which results in a lot of pressure being taken off Kyle Schwarber defensively.  

More from Cubbies Crib

As for Jorge Soler, yeah — he’ll play too. Epstein addressed the concern in the press conference by implying a Schwarber/Soler platoon will happen. Schwarber will spend time as a designated hitter during interleague play while also accumulating time at catcher and left field throughout points of the season.

Soler is now considered the fourth outfielder, but he will see significant playing time with the available versatility dispersed within the roster. Given the unpredictability that comes in a 162 game season, having depth in the outfield is vital.

Plus, Soler is coming off his first season ever where he’s played in more than 62 games. There was an obvious precaution manager Joe Maddon took with the powerful Cuban outfielder, so expect the same kind of tendencies in 2016.

In the end, Heyward will likely play in almost every game, with Fowler getting in roughly 140 contests while Schwarber and Soler see 80-to-100 games a piece, or maybe more.  The versatile, depth filled Chicago Cubs roster is as complete as its ever been.

The thought of playing time on defense is exciting in and of itself, but their lineup has this Cubs fan straight up giddy.

For fun, picture this:

  1. Fowler, CF
  2. Heyward, RF
  3. Rizzo, 1B
  4. Bryant, 3B
  5. Schwarber, LF
  6. Zobrist, 2B
  7. Montero, C
  8. Pitcher
  9. Russell, SS

And that’s not even with a DH. The only real concern over offensive production is Addison Russell, but all he needs to focus on is picking it up and throwing it over from shortstop because guys have his back with the stick.

Fowler in 156 regular season games last season produced a .250/.346/.411 line with 17 home runs, 29 doubles, 20 stolen bases and scored 102 runs. He is a prototypical lead-off hitter with speed and an uncanny knack for getting on base. The Cubs should expect much of the same production with a lineup that is better than last year.

Next: Chicago Cubs trade Coghlan, re-sign Fowler

Let’s not forget to mention Fowler’s impact in the playoffs, highlighted by his performance in the wild card game. He started the winner-take-all contest with a hit, followed by a stolen base and was eventually driven in by Kyle Schwarber for the game’s first run. Fowler added a mammoth home run later to seal the Pirates’ fate.

Epstein said it takes four top-caliber outfielders to win a championship. The Cubs have them in Heyward, Schwarber, Fowler and Soler, with Baez playing the role as super-utility-man.