You go, we go. Looking back at Dexter Fowler’s Cubs tenure

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

They say the older you get, the faster the years go by and, woo boy, this is one of those instances. This week marked the seven-year anniversary of the trade that saw the Cubs send Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily to the Houston Astros in exchange for outfielder Dexter Fowler.

That first year in Chicago, Fowler appeared in all but six of the Cubs’ regular season contests, putting up a slightly above-average 109 OPS+ and getting on base at a .349 clip for first-year manager Joe Maddon. He went 3-for-4 in the NL Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh, but struggled in both the NLDS and NLCS.

Of course, that looked like the end of the line for Fowler on the North Side. He hit free agency that winter and multiple reports had him going to Baltimore on a three-year deal. However, those talks crumbled and in late February, the outfielder strolled casually into Cubs camp – inking a one-year, $13 million deal to return for another season.

We all know the story from there. Fowler turned in an All-Star-caliber 2016 performance, setting the table regularly courtesy of a .393 on-base percentage, which, to this day, marks a personal career-best. The ‘you go, we go’ mantra stuck – and he continued to prove his worth, all the way till the final game of the year – Game 7 in Cleveland, when he got the Cubs’ offense rolling right away.

Chicago Cubs: Dexter Fowler packs his bags for an ill-fated tenure in St. Louis

Fowler turned that breakout 2016 performance into a massive five-year, $82.5 million deal with the rival Cardinals. Even though we all wanted to see him back in Chicago, it was evident from the start this was an overpay – and the numbers bore that out over the length of the pact.

In St. Louis, he appeared in more than 120 games just one time as injuries marred his time with the Redbirds. He finished his run with the team with just a .233 batting average and a 98 OPS+. It’s not like he was ever an offensive juggernaut in Chicago, but given what the Cardinals paid him, it’s safe to say they’d hoped for more.

Last spring, they traded Fowler to the Angels, where he was reunited with Maddon. Unfortunately, an early season injury ended his 2021 after a mere seven games. Now, at age 35, he’s a free agent (that seemingly no one is talking about) – and if he attempts to come back from the injury, you know it’s not going to be guaranteed money.

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And, no, before you suggest it, the Cubs should not give him a deal this winter. Just because we all love him for his two years and role on that championship team doesn’t mean it’s right to go the Jake Arrieta route and tarnish that legacy with a late-career comeback. Here’s to you, Dex. Best of luck – whether it be on the field or in whatever the future might hold for you.