So Dexter Fowler is Back, Now What?
I sit here, writing this article about the roster construction of the Cubs for the 2016 season. And it looks like a damn good roster. One that can be argued has no flaw. They have a great outfield, a fantastic infield, all the makings of a top rotation, and a dominant bullpen. Not to mention they can hit. The Cubs didn’t need to do anything more this offseason.
But they did.
And the team got better.
The Cubs announced Thursday that Dexter Fowler (!!!!!!) is coming back on a one-year deal (with a mutual option for a second). With the addition, I wanted to look at how a majority of the roster will fall into place. There are some players that are obvious locks for the roster, there are the swing players like Matt Szczur, and there are bench players.
I see the rotation on Opening Day being these five: Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Kyle Hendricks, and Jason Hammel. The infield will be Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Ben Zobrist, and Miguel Montero is obviously the starting catcher.
Considering the recent news, however, I want to spend most of my time on the outfield. Thinking about the outfield situation makes my mind go BOOOOOOOOOM. Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Jason Heyward, and now Fowler are all competent starters. More than competent, actually. That is an outfield for the ages. There’s only one problem though: You typically only play three outfielders. So how the hell does this work out? I. Have. Zero. Clue. I am currently very happy that I am not Joe Maddon.
As I see it, there are two scenarios that can play out.
The Cubs Do Nothing
It’s not impossible to have a four-man outfield with a left field platoon of Schwarber and Soler. This is under the hypothetical that Fowler plays center and Heyward plays right every day. Heyward is a Gold Glover in right field and it can be easily argued he is the best defensive right fielder in the game. We know what Fowler brings you defensively. He is good, but nothing more than that. He can run around the grass in center and catch the ball. But there’s another side to this. What do you do with all the bats?
Let’s start with this: Heyward is playing every day, period. But the other 3 guys? I don’t even know, man. I think the most likely conclusion to this is that there is a platoon of Schwarber and Soler in which they play every other day. Or Schwarber starts in left and Soler plays the role of Chris Coghlan (who was also traded Wednesday; my God, I haven’t even mentioned that deal yet). Schwarber’s bat needs to be in the lineup every day. If only the Cubs could play more interleague games. Or you know, have a DESIGNATED HITTER. Because Schwarber is so important offensively, it makes Soler the vulnerable guy. Which leads me to my next point…
The Cub’s Do The Tradez
The other option that exists is that the Cubs trade Soler. Personally, I am opposed to it. He has immense power and can play good defense. We saw it in the playoffs with that insane throw to nail some dude, I forget who, at the plate. We also saw it a lot in 2014. 2015 was lacking a little, but I think a defensive bounce-back is in store for Soler this year. But that’s really neitehr here nor there when it comes to whether or not they should trade him.
If you trade Soler, you really need to get a starter like Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, or Alex Cobb, or, as my buddy said in my Cubs text chat, Chris Sale (don’t get your hopes up). Point being, a feasible option would be to trade Soler and get a stud pitcher in return. But wait, there’s more! Theo Epstein said today after the Fowler signing was announced that they would be making no more moves in the outfield. I don’t believe that on the surface. The Cubs said they were most likely done with moves when they signed Heyward. If something pops up for Theo and Jed to look at, I fully expect them to do so. That being said, I doubt anything happens until the deadline.
Moving on, let’s touch on the infield briefly. Javy Baez has flashed some relatively okay defense (sarcasm font) at three infield positions and is now being listed as Rizzo’s primary backup at first base. We all know about Baez’s profile, how it’s all there but just needs to click. Tommy La Stella is the perfect backup second basemen. Arismendy Alcantara has been struggling mightily and I have severe doubts he can recover from it. Then you have Rizzo, Zobrist, Russell, and Bryant to shore up the infield. My lord this roster is insane.
This article got clouded by the outfield today and, in my defense, it’s justifiable. Having Dex back for this year is going to be awesome and brings up a lot of discussion. Expect more, and soon. For now, celebrate because we are only a week removed from the first Cubs game of the year.