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Chicago Cubs: Outfield talent is taking home premium money

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Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) talks during the World Series victory rally in Grant Park. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) talks during the World Series victory rally in Grant Park. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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If the New York Mets’ signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year $110 million deal is any sign of things to come, outfield talent is coming at a premium price this year. For fan favorite Dexter Fowler, this means that the Chicago Cubs won’t budge if other teams begin negotiating with him first.

Yoenis Cespedes opted out of a three-year $75 million deal. His bet surely paid off financially, while simultaneously setting the precedent for outfielders this offseason.

Without Cespedes in the lineup, it’s hard to imagine the Mets being competitive with the Washington Nationals in the NL East. Chicago has the depth to still reign supreme over their division without Dexter Fowler.

Albert Almora seems is the most reasonable replacement for Fowler, but he needs time to develop into an everyday player. Though he isn’t a switch-hitter, Almora has offensive stats comparable to Fowler.

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In 49 games with Chicago, Almora struck out half as much as Fowler and committed no errors defensively.

According to multiple reports, and posted by our own Jacob Misener, Chicago signed veteran outfielder Jon Jay to a one-year $8 million deal on Tuesday. This signing all but guarantees that Fowler is leaving Chicago.

Utility

It is also indicative of Chicago’s utility- player philosophy. Players who can defend at multiple positions— like Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant — typically see more field-time.

Fowler is an outstanding centerfielder and will surely find work for a well-deserved salary. But, skipper Joe Maddon can only play him at that one position. Maddon likes to shift players around defensively to account for the opponent’s offensive output during the game. With Fowler in center field, Maddon is limited in his outfield moves.

Jay and Almora are both versatile enough to play all three outfield positions, and Jay owns a career OPS+ of 103. Though he isn’t a power threat and has his limitations, the 31-year-old lefty can be very useful on a well-stocked roster.

Next: Cubs sign Jay to one-year deal

Over the past two season, Jay has missed time with wrist and forearm injuries. Last year, he batted .291/.339/.389 in just 90 games for the Padres.

The Chicago Cubs are in a very favorable position this offseason. They can sit back and let the fires of free agency burn without feeling any pressure to act.

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