Wow. Just wow.
The digital ink hadn’t even dried on the news that Chris Coghlan had been traded to the A’s for pitching depth than the other shoe dropped. The initial move had raised all kinds of questions, most of them regarding the Cubs’ outfield depth after the loss of their best bench bat. Were the Cubs really that confident in Javy Baez? Would Ben Zobrist get more time in the OF than we had though?
Then the speculation began. Surely the Cubs would have to replace Coghlan’s roster spot with another outfield. Thoughts immediately turned to the still-available Austin Jackson since, you know, Dexter Fowler had agreed to a three-year, $35 million deal with Baltimore on Wednesday. But then the pictures and reports started coming in from the folks in Mesa. Surely this was a concerted troll job of epic proportions. No way was that really Dexter Fowler.
It was, however, really Dex. Kelly Crull captured video of the center fielder’s triumphant return as he walked in accompanied by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to take his place in a circle of his old/new teammates (beware, there’s an em-effer in here).
— Kelly Crull (@Kelly_Crull) February 25, 2016
It still didn’t seem real, but then came the confirmation that Fowler and the Cubs had indeed agreed to one-year deal with mutual option for 2017.
Fowler signs one year $15m deal with option for 2017. ($8m in'16, $9m mutual option in '17 w/ $5m buyout on option)
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) February 25, 2016
I don’t really understand how the math above works, nor do I care, but I know that this may well have been something that’s been in the works at least since camp opened in earnest last week. A lot of questions were raised in the wake of the announcement, most or all of which were answered in short order during a brief presser. As for the deal with Baltimore, Fowler expressed surprise that it had been reported as a done deal. The offer was there, but Bruce Levine reported that the O’s balked when Fowler insisted on an early opt-out.
Sounds like he agreed with the Cubs last night, then drove from Vegas to Mesa for a physical and was a Cub again. This was a situation the Cubs had been monitoring and it sounds as though the mutual interest was really strong this whole time. Fowler now gets a chance to take care of unfinished business and the Cubs get back a major piece of last year’s success. It seems likely he’ll hit free agency again next season, but 2016 is all that matters for now.
The addition of Fowler gives the Cubs a really crowded outfield, though it appears that Fowler and Heyward are going to start in CF and RF, respectively. Epstein claims there are no more moves coming, so Jorge Soler will essentially assume the role Coghlan held last season, flipping between the two corners. This may provide a little more credence to the idea of Schwarber getting some more time behind the plate too, which might be the only way the Cubs can find enough at-bats for everyone.
Speaking of finding at-bats, you have to wonder whether and how this impacts Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella. Given the dearth of available innings on the outfield, my assumption is that Baez spends most of his time playing in the dirt and La Stella, well, he may be out of a roster spot. The same could well be true for Matt Murton.
There’s a lot, lot more to unpack here, but the big takeaway is that Theo Epstein is on some serious stealth isht. I mean, this is truly an all-timer in terms of moves no one saw coming. For the record, I didn’t think this was going to happen, didn’t think it could happen. This is telling your kid you forgot their birthday and then walking a pony around the corner. Crazy. Stay tuned.