Chicago Cubs made the right call letting Dexter Fowler walk in free agency

Dexter Fowler / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Dexter Fowler / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Regardless of the issues the team has faced since his departure, the Chicago Cubs made the right call letting Dext er Fowler walk in free agency.

Dexter Fowler was unquestionably a huge part of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series back in 2016. He filled a critical need for the team, both in center field and atop the order on a day-in, day-out basis.

Since he left via free agency, signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the rival St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago has struggled to find an answer to the questions left in his wake. The leadoff spot has been a virtual black hole for the last three-plus years and center field is one of the two most uncertain positions the front office has on its hands as things currently stand.

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During his Cubs tenure, Fowler did it all. He played a solid center field and got on base regularly, setting the table for the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and the rest of the team’s sluggers. From 2015-16, the former 14th round pick got on base at a .367 clip – including a .393 mark during the team’s 2016 championship run.

‘You go, we go,’ epitomized Fowler’s time with the Cubs. When he played well, the team won. When he was off his game, it was evident in how the club performed, both offensively and defensively. More than what he did on the field, he was just one of those clubhouse guys who felt like the glue that held the group together in so many ways. It’s probably why we all love(d) Fowler so much – and why we miss him to this day.

All that being taken into account, Theo Epstein undoubtedly made the right call when he let Fowler walk in free agency in the 2016-17 offseason. Since joining St. Louis, the veteran outfielder has left plenty to be desired, struggling in almost every regard.

With Chicago, Fowler slashed .261/.367/.427 in 1,241 plate appearances, averaging a 115 OPS+. But with the Cardinals, his numbers have slid to .233/.335/.410 across 1,399 plate appearances (97 OPS+). If you need to understand how badly things have gone in St. Louis, his 2019 performance was considered a bounceback – and he hit just .238 on the year.

Given the Cubs’ already precarious luxury tax situation, imagining the $16.5 million annual salary Fowler has pocketed since 2017 (and will continue to do so through 2021), it’s near-unfathomable the team could have made this work while also making the several critical in-season moves we’ve seen in recent years.

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We’ll always love Fowler – and he’ll always be a Cub. Never mind the fact he only played on the North Side for a pair of seasons. Whenever we see that infectious smile, it’ll always come back to, “You go, we go,” – no matter what the future holds.