It might go overlooked when talking about the most impactful moves in Chicago Cubs history, but the trade for Dexter Fowler laid the foundation for a title.
For two years, Fowler set the tone atop the Chicago batting order, getting on base at a .367 clip out of the leadoff spot. Of course, he’s probably more remembered for his leadoff Game 7 home run in the 2016 World Series, but personally, I’ll always remember cheering for Fowler in the bleachers with fellow fans screaming, “You go, we go,” on summer days at Wrigley.
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The trade for Fowler should rank up there with any of Theo Epstein’s biggest moves of his illustrious front office career. Chicago sent Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily to the Houston Astros in January 2015, shoring up the center field position as the Joe Maddon era got underway.
Valbuena was suddenly very expendable with top prospect Kris Bryant and his impending promotion looming. Of course, the day after the Cubs gained an additional year of service time control, the eventual 2015 National League Rookie of the year made his big league debut and the rest, as they say, is history.
For Fowler, it was an up-and-down season, as he fluctuated month to month with the bat. But in the second half, he kicked it up a notch as the Cubs made an improbable run to the postseason – marking the dawn of a new era in Wrigleyville.
The lanky center fielder slashed .272/.389/.463 down the stretch as Chicago ran off a 50-25 record en route to a Wild Card berth. The whole ‘you go, we go’ mantra bore out in the numbers, as well. When the Cubs were winning, Fowler wreaked havoc (.839 OPS). In losses, he did not (.625 OPS).
After the team suffered a sweep at the hands of the New York Mets in the NCLS, it appeared as if we may have seen the last of Fowler in a Cubs uniform. In the spring, reports surfaced that he had agreed to terms on a deal with the Baltimore Orioles – only for him to show up at camp in Mesa after inking a one-year deal to return to the North Side in hopes of finishing the job and winning a ring.
If the Cubs were happy with what Fowler brought to the table in 2015, they were ecstatic with his performance in 2016. The former 14th round pick earned the first and only All-Star selection of his career, turning in a .393 on-base percentage ahead of the rest of the Cubs’ feared sluggers.
Looking back, we remember Fowler backpedaling around first at Progressive Field after he took Indians ace Corey Kluber deep to kick things off in Game 7. Now, we see plenty of him with his playing for the St. Louis Cardinals – but one thing is absolutely irrefutable.
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Dexter Fowler is a Cub for life. He’ll likely be underrated in the eyes of history, but for those of us who got to experience his two years with Chicago, he’ll never be underappreciated. You go, we go, indeed.