It blows my mind that Dexter Fowler is still a free agent.
The outfield market in general has been a mystery in that we’ve had names like Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton struggling to attract suitors, especially given their skill sets, the seasons they’re coming off of, and the age factor. This same logic applies to Fowler, who is entering his age-30 season, and coming off one of the best years of his career. You could make a case that this was the best year of his career, considering that his numbers weren’t inflated from playing in Colorado.
Fowler, realistically, should end up with at least a four-year deal in the $70 million range, yet here we are on February 1 and he’s still a free agent. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring training in a little less than three weeks, so hopefully he doesn’t lose any leverage over the fact that I’m sure he wants to be with his new (or old) team in time for position players reporting. This is where the qualifying offer needs to be revisited when the next collective bargaining agreement is being negotiated. Fowler was extended a qualifying offer from the Cubs, which he declined. It’s pretty obvious that without draft pick compensation attached, a healthy 29-year-old centerfielder with a .368 on-base percentage over the last four seasons would not be jobless in the first week of February.
Although nothing is imminent, a return to the Cubs makes the most sense for Fowler. As it stands right now, Jason Heyward is slated to be the Opening Day centerfielder, a position that he has played before, but sporadically and in limited playing time (233 innings over 3 years, which equals out to be 32 games). That being said, Heyward is most valuable to the Cubs in right field, where he’s a three-time Gold Glove winner, including each of the previous two seasons. Fowler returning to the Cubs would give them their dynamic table-setter back, while sliding Heyward back into right field, which would likely mean that Jorge Soler becomes trade bait for a team looking to add some pop to their lineup. Makes sense for both sides.