In a shocking move, Fowler, who had reportedly agreed to a three-year, $35 million deal with the Orioles, showed up at Cubs camp on Thursday and signed a one-year, $8 million deal with a $9 million mutual option for 2017. The 29-year-old explained that he never gave a verbal commitment to the Orioles; Baltimore executive vice president Dan Duquette said Fowler's insistence on a buyout clause was the main reason talks with the outfielder resulted in no deal.
The whole situation is a gut punch for the Orioles, Eddie Matz writes. Even so, the team doesn't have time to dwell on what could have been. With spring training already underway, Baltimore will need to act quickly if it wants to pursue somebody else to fill the role that Fowler would have fit in.
Bruce would perhaps make the most sense for the O's. A left-handed bat who has plenty of experience in right field, the slugger has heard a good amount of trade rumors involving his name this week. A reported three-team deal that would have seen the Cincinnati Reds send Bruce to the Toronto Blue Jays, who would, in turn, send Michael Saunders to the Los Angeles Angels, fell apart during the medical review stage. Still, the Reds are perceived by other teams to be aggressively shopping the 28-year-old, Olney writes.
Cincinnati GM Dick Williams told reporters, including John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Thursday morning that no deal involving Bruce was close to happening.
Jackson, on the other hand, could be the most feasible option for Baltimore. Still a free agent, the 29-year-old won't cost any team that signs him a draft pick and likely could be had on a one-year deal. However, Jackson has a track record of being streaky at the plate and might be best suited as a club's fourth outfielder.
The Angels offered Jackson a one-year deal believed to be in the neighborhood of $5 million to $6 million, but the Scott Boras client declined, seeking more money, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports. It's likely that Jackson's reps are advising him to wait until the end of spring training in case an injury makes a contending team desperate for a bat.
Lastly, Alvarez seems like more of a plan C option for Baltimore. Signing the 29-year-old would mean using Mark Trumbo in right field, something the O's probably want to avoid at all costs. Baltimore has been among the more defensively sound teams in recent years, and such a move would surely have a negative effect on that.
Of course, the Orioles could also stay in-house with a replacement, with Nolan Reimold, Dariel Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty and Jimmy Paredes all possibilities. Time will tell which route the O's decide to go and if it will be the right choice.
Here are a few more rumors making their way around the league today:
Aroldis Chapman: The decision on Chapman's suspension is expected to come down in the coming days, and the left-hander "will get a ban," Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports. Even if a suspension is a short amount of games, the New York Yankees closer has made it clear that he will appeal the decision. Without any charges filed against the 27-year-old, this is a difficult case for commissioner Rob Manfred to make his first domestic violence ruling on. However, the ban will need to set precedent for other players, which will likely play a factor in how many games Chapman receives. Stay tuned.
Will Venable: It appears the Cleveland Indians are on the verge of signing the free-agent outfielder. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Venable is "in Indians camp today," which usually signals that a deal is coming. Jordan Bastian of MLB.com tweets that Venable will take a physical with Cleveland today, while Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com reports the 33-year-old will get a minor league contract with a spring training invite. Venable is a career .251 hitter and will likely serve as outfield depth in case Michael Brantley has to miss time in his recovery from shoulder surgery.
Edwin Encarnacion: Lost in the shuffle of Jose Bautista's contract demands has been Encarnacion, who is also a free agent after the 2016 season. The 33-year-old spoke with reporters, including Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com, and said that he won't negotiate a new contract after Opening Day. This doesn't come as much of a surprise, as most players prefer to avoid contract discussions during the regular season. That said, if the Blue Jays fail to get a deal done before Opening Day and Encarnacion has another big year, expect the slugger to test free agency next winter and cash in on a deal similar to the one Bautista is reportedly seeking. The good news for Toronto, however, is that Encarnacion would like to stay with the team, Shi Davidi Sportsnet reports. "I love this team," Encarnacion said. "I love this city but it [doesn’t] depend on me. It depends what they’re thinking."
Miami Marlins: The Marlins are still monitoring the market for pitching, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Although the team is pleased with what it has in camp, president of baseball operations Michael Hill is keeping tabs on any potential upgrades. "We're still assessing the market and making sure we're on top of the market," Hill said. "Right now, if it's something that makes us better and it's an upgrade and it can add to what we already have, we'll pursue it. But we are very happy with where we are." Frisaro mentions free-agent right-hander Tim Lincecum as a name Miami could still be keeping an eye on. Lincecum was expected to throw for teams before the end of February, but that has yet to happen.