When the Chicago Cubs signed Dexter Fowler to a one-year deal, it stunned the baseball world–especially the Orioles. With a mutual option for 2017, it was assumed they would buy him out to allow Albert Almora to take over. But should the two reconsider that plan?
It’s a world of buyouts and options in contracts these days, not just for the Chicago Cubs but everyone. It allows the teams to have an “out” to avoid things like the Cubs had with Alfonso Soriano, and for players to have the chance to enter free agency again if they have a superb year entering the option.
When Dexter Fowler surprised the Cubs in Spring Training by returning to sign a one-year deal when most thought he was taking the bigger, longer term deal in Baltimore, it left more than a few people scratching their heads. While many players pursue the security of a long-term deal, Fowler returned for less money and one year. It was expected the Cubs would buy out the deal as the hope of Albert Almora being ready is anticipated. Fowler wants to win in Chicago–and it’s clear he’s a huge part of that after his return yesterday from injury.
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So with a $9 million mutual option for next year with a $5 million buyout, what’s the best move? When he returned, I was one of the many who believed it was a one year deal to help Almora another year to continue his development. And while Almora’s performance in his time with the Cubs was admirable (.265/.291/.422) with two home runs and nine driven in, it pales in comparison to that of the All-Star Fowler (.298/.405/.504) with eight homers and 31 RBIs. He’s just 15 shy of his RBI total from last season, and it’s not even August yet.
In games that Fowler has started in 2016, the Cubs are 44-18. In the games that he hasn’t? 14-19. I’m not implying in any way that it is entirely because of him, but as Joe Maddon has said, “As you go, we go”. Fowler gives this offense a different feel. Ben Zobrist was an All-Star. But he’s not the leadoff hitter that Fowler is. This offense really does go as he goes, last night was an example of that.
If (BIG IF) the Cubs were to win the World Series this year, that could have a direct affect on if they decided to bring him back or not. Not that the Cubs would say “Hey, we finally did it! Now it doesn’t matter anymore!”. Far from that. But with that accomplishment off being part of it, Fowler could decide to go elsewhere. That’s the type of thing that only the player knows.
I liked Fowler when we got him last year. There were some knocks about his defense, but they never seemed to be glaring. And when he returned this year for less money, to be part of the Cubs again? I was hooked. I believe the right call–barring injury or other unforeseen issues–is to bring him back in 2017.