The month of January is shaping up to be quite a busy one this offseason. Usually come January all the best players have already signed their contracts. This year it is an entirely different story. Position players such as Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon remain available, while pitchers such as Wei-Yin Chen, Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy also remain available. At this point, there is really no indication on where any of these players will sign. One potential landing spot that makes lot of sense for a mid-tier position player is the San Francisco Giants. That player? Dexter Fowler.
To this point, the talk and rumors about Fowler have been relatively quiet. With the big names still on the market, it is likely that Fowler will have to wait for those players to sign before his market comes into clearer focus. Given that the season inches ever closer, that scenario will probably play out sooner rather than later.
Fowler is coming off one of the best years of his entire career in 2015. Early in his career, Fowler played in Colorado with the Rockies, coming with the dreaded Coors effect. Many didn’t anticipate Fowler would be able to sustain his above average performance out of Coors Field. As the below table shows, Fowler was just as good if not better in Chicago than his best season in Colorado.
As seen above, Fowler was not quite as good offensively as in Colorado in 2015, but he still was 10% above league average based on wRC+ while providing almost a win more in WAR value than his best season in Colorado. While one question mark that comes with Fowler is his defense in center field, he showed great improvement last year over his prior play in both Colorado and Houston. San Francisco is quite a spacious park, but the Giants could use him primarily in left field, while utilizing some sort of platoon between Blanco and Pagan in center field. Either way it gives the Giants more options in their outfield.
Fowler and the Giants make sense as a perfect fit for a variety of reasons. First off, the Giants are in need of some more outfield depth. Currently, the Giants are going with an outfield consisting of Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan, and Hunter Pence. While Blanco and Pence are both productive players when healthy, an issue for Pence last season, Pagan leaves a lot to be desired as a potential starting outfielder. Pagan had a terrible 2015 season and would be much better served in a utility role for the Giants next year.
Second, Fowler would certainly fit the Giants monetary constraints. Following the signings of both Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, the Giants may not want to spend the sort of money it would take to sign one of the upper echelon free agent outfield talents. Fowler, however, would come at a much more manageable price. Fowler will likely wind up earning a contract in the four-year, $60 million range, a price the Giants should definitely be able to afford.
Finally, it is an even year after all. As is pretty apparent by now, the Giants have a pattern of even year championships going that they don’t seem intent on breaking. With the D’backs looking better than ever and the Dodgers still on top of the division, the Giants need to be all in this offseason if they hope to stand a chance at winning the NL West and getting back to the World Series. The signings of Cueto and Samardzija were a good start, but the Giants must address their outfield need, and Fowler fits the bill.
While there is no sure thing in MLB free agency, there are potential fits that make the most sense. With the Giants clear need for outfield depth, and a lack of financial desire to sign a more expensive player, Fowler makes the most sense with the San Francisco Giants. It remains to be seen whether a deal will get done, but it will certainly be a storyline to watch in the coming weeks.