Holy Batman, Dexter Fowler. After media reports had the free-agent outfielder agreeing to a contract with the Baltimore Orioles, he suddenly showed up in Chicago Cubs camp with a new contract and hugs from his no-longer-former teammates.
Fowler said reports of the Orioles contract were premature. "I didn't give them a verbal agreement at all. ... It didn't come from our camp," he said.
Fowler, who had turned down a $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Cubs, ended up signing for $8 million in 2016 and a $9 million mutual option (which the Cubs can buy out for $5 million). It's a lot less than if he had taken the qualifying offer, but he said he was happy to go "back to what you know."
The Cubs cleared room in an already-crowded outfield by trading Chris Coghlan to the Oakland Athletics for right-hander Aaron Brooks. Still, the immediate speculation: What do the Cubs do with Jorge Soler?
I'm not sure they have to do anything. Assuming Fowler goes back to center field and Jason Heyward now slides back to right field, where he's won three Gold Gloves and has excellent defensive metrics, Soler is seemingly out of a regular job with Kyle Schwarber entrenched in left field. But there should still be plenty of playing time for Soler. Here's a possible scenario:
Fowler: Starts 135 games in center field (135 total).
Heyward: Starts 27 games in center field, 123 in right field (150 total).
Schwarber: Starts 100 games in left field, 25 at catcher, 10 at DH (135 total).
Soler: Starts 39 games in right field, 62 in left field (101 total).
Sure, you'd prefer a young player with breakout potential like Soler to play every day. But in 100 starts, plus pinch-hitting opportunities, he's still going to get close to 500 plate appearances. It keeps everyone rested, allows manager Joe Maddon to mix and match based on the opposing pitcher or his own pitcher, and if somebody does get hurt, there is depth available. Plus, now there are two guys who can play center field as opposed to just having Heyward. So, no, I don't trade Soler.
The biggest issue in the above scenario is whether the Cubs still consider Schwarber a catcher. But we also don't know if Schwarber can hit lefties yet (he hit .143/.213/.268 against them). Yes, it might not work to make him a platoon player this early in his career, but the Cubs are trying to win a World Series here. It's possible that, at least for 2016, Schwarber and Soler essentially form a platoon in left field, with Fowler and Heyward playing more or less every day.
Maddon will have to keep everyone happy, but he's the right manager to do that. The Cubs might already have been the best team (on paper), and now they're a little better.