Towards the end of last season, I was one of the few people saying Dexter Fowler should have accepted the Cubs’ qualifying offer. He had clearly played well enough to earn a multi-year deal and nobody blames him for seeking one. But think about these factors: Fowler loves it in Chicago; $15.8 million for one year of baseball is no joke; and he would still receive multi-year offers after the 2016 season.
Yet, here we are in late January and Fowler’s market has been surprisingly quiet. Bruce Levine is reporting that Fowler has been linked to both Chicago teams, and some sources think he will end up back with the Cubs. Of course, at this moment, the Cubs don’t have an opening for Fowler. If the season started today, you’ve got Jason Heyward in center and Jorge Soler in right. That plan, however, has only been written in pencil.
You would think that the longer this plays out, the better chance there is of a Fowler return. The Cubs are no doubt still listening to offers for Soler and probably telling Fowler’s camp to sit tight if they feel a return could indeed be in the cards. The lanky center fielder looks much better in blue than black, and he could very well be waiting for the same type of phone call Ben Zobrist received earlier this offseason. If a trade goes down, look for a Fowler signing shortly thereafter.
That said, the long-term ramifications of letting Soler go scare me, especially with his team-friendly contract and the potential we saw from him in October. At the same time, the Cubs are “all-in” for 2016. Fowler in CF with Heyward in RF, not to mention the starting pitching help the Cubs would get in return for Soler, would be awfully attractive.
The Cubs are still being linked to the Rays in trade talks, but most sources believe the Rays would much prefer Javy Baez over Soler. I could be wrong, but I don’t see Baez being traded this year. And I guarantee the Cubs are getting several calls on Soler from multiple teams, most of which we won’t even hear about. So the Cubs could bring Fowler back to the North Side. The question now is will they.
The bottom line is this: the Cubs are in great shape regardless of how this situation plays out. And with Theo Epstein in charge, I think we can all just sit back and enjoy the ride.