Dexter Fowler's return to the Cubs in February was one of the early-spring surprises of 2016, as it was first reported that he was nearing a deal with Baltimore. Returning for a second season on the north side of Chicago, Fowler was once against the catalyst for a potent lineup, which allowed him to parlay his career-high .393 OBP into 84 runs despite the fact that a hamstring injury limited him to 125 games. In addition to his work atop the lineup, Fowler graded out as an improved defender in center field by positioning himself deeper in the outfield on a regular basis. Fowler cashed in ahead of his 31st birthday, signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Cardinals in December. He's an everyday leadoff hitter capable of providing double-digit homers and steals, as he's done in four of the past five seasons.
Fowler, who inked a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Cardinals in December, is expected to improve the team in several ways, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports. "I think he's going to be a great fit, all the way around, in this community, on this team, in the lineup, in our clubhouse," manager Mike Matheny said. "[I'm] very, very excited about having him with us." The veteran outfielder, who helped the Cubs to their championship since 1908 last season, was brought to the division-rival Cardinals with the aim of improving the team's outfield defense, as well as to serve as a dynamic leadoff presence. The Cubs were notably 64-20 when Fowler had at least one hit last season, a testament to his table-setting skills at the top of the order. Additionally, his .367 career OBP when leading off ranks him as the fourth-best in that category for players with a minimum of 820 plate appearances since his rookie 2008 campaign. Fowler's savvy on the basepaths, which includes eight consecutive seasons with double-digit swipes, is also highly coveted by his new team, considering the Cardinals were last in the NL with 35 stolen bases in 2016. A residual benefit of his presence atop the lineup is that Matt Carpenter, who's served in that role for the last four seasons, will be able to slot into a spot more conducive to run production. Meanwhile, his ability to lock down center field will shift Randal Grichuk to left, where his glove will be considered an upgrade over the likes of the departed duo of Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss, who started a combined 143 games at the position in 2016.
Fowler signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Cardinals on Friday, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. He receives a full no-trade clause as part of the deal, representing the biggest free agent signing for the Cardinals in recent memory. Last season he was one of the lynchpins in one of the best offenses in baseball as the leadoff hitter for the Cubs, and the Cardinals will ask him to do the same thing heading forward. Fowler has hit 12-plus home runs and stolen 13 or more bases in three of the past four seasons, making him one of the better bets in baseball to tally double digits in both categories in 2017. He could also represent a good source of runs. Look for Fowler to play center field every day with Tommy Pham now serving as the Cardinals' fourth outfielder.
Fowler has a deal in place with the Cardinals, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fowler is en route to St. Louis for his physical, having received an "over-the-top offer" from the Cardinals. The deal is expected to be formally announced Friday. Fowler missed some time with a hamstring issue in 2016, but he was a force atop the lineup when healthy, batting .276/.393/.447. His excellent on-base skills and ability to hit from both sides of the plate should keep him in the leadoff spot on an everyday basis.
Rumors are swirling that Fowler is a subject of interest in Toronto, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports. The Jays are looking to acquire a left-hand hitting leadoff man with a strong OBP. Fowler, a free agent, fits that description perfectly. The outfielder's .393 OBP in 2016 ranked sixth in the NL, while his 79 walks in the regular season was eighth in the league. Only four of his 456 at-bats in 2016 were outside of the top spot, and Fowler slashed a solid .277/.393/.449 as the leadoff man.
Fowler declined the Cubs' qualifying offer for the 2017 season, Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reports. As expected, Fowler opted to turn down the $17.2 million qualifying offer and will explore offers during free agency. The 30-year-old put up a .276/.393/.447 line to go with 84 runs and 48 RBI with the Cubs in 2016. However, he was only able to play in 125 games as he made a month-long stint on the DL with a hamstring injury.