Despite reports that Dexter Fowler was not interested in the team due to issues with manager Mike Matheny, the St. Louis Cardinals have managed to reach an agreement with the 30-year-old outfielder pending the results of a physical on Friday. The agreement was originally hinted at by Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports, who tweeted the news that Fowler was coming in for a physical with the team.
An hour later, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale confirmed that the two sides were moving towards a deal, but had yet to finalize the contract.
Never far from the scoop, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman joined the fray soon thereafter, tweeting that Fowler’s deal will be somewhere in the range of five years and $80 million, although the exact amounts are still yet to be confirmed.
Like the recently-signed Ian Desmond, Fowler fell victim to the qualifying offer system last offseason, failing to generate significant interest in the free agent market due to the loss of a draft pick that came with his signing. Eventually, after rumors of his signing with the Orioles were proven false, Fowler inked a one-year deal to remain with the Chicago Cubs for the 2016 season.
Fowler’s re-signing turned out as good as anyone could have hoped, as the nine-year veteran made his first All-Star team and had his most productive season ever by wRC+ and fWAR, posting 129 and 4.7 marks in those respective categories. Fowler also set career-high in on-base percentage at .393, and tallied second-best career marks in isolated slugging, batting average, slugging percentage, and wOBA. Fowler’s offensive output has been disconcertingly consistent over the course of his major-league career, and his ability to hit from both sides of the plate makes him an attractive batsman at the top of the batting order.
Fowler’s defensive ability is more questionable than his bat, with most defensive metrics rating him as a below-average center fielder. However, last season, Fowler climbed out of the red and recorded his first-ever positive full season by DRS, saving the Cubs a single run in just over 1,000 innings in center field. As is well known, defensive metrics are far from a perfect science, and many around the game believe Fowler’s defensive ability is actually better than the metrics might suggest.
Whether Fowler continues to work in center or moves to a corner outfield spot remains to be seen, as the Cardinals current center fielder Randal Grichuk has amassed an impressive +14 DRS in just over 1,200 innings at center field across three seasons.