Today, the Baltimore Orioles signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a three-year contract worth $33 million, according to Roch Kubatko. Because Fowler rejected the Chicago Cubs’ qualifying offer earlier this offseason, the Orioles will forfeit the #28 draft pick. The deal is identical to the contract that Baltimore signed Yovani Gallardo to, but there are medical concerns that are holding up the Gallardo signing.
Fowler, who is 29 years old, has been consistent throughout his entire career. He has played at least 115 games in every season he has been a major-leaguer, batting at least .250 and putting his speed on display with double-digit steals in every season. He batted .250/.346/.411 with a career-high 17 home runs and 46 RBI in a career-high 156 games last season for the Cubs. He also stole 20 bases, and earned a career-high 84 walks.
With Adam Jones manning center field, Fowler will slot into one of the corner outfield positions. Baltimore can now allow Chris Davis to see more time at first base and less time in the outfield, with Fowler serving as a more natural defensive option with greater speed. Fowler led the league in defensive games as a center fielder last season, and posted the second-highest range factor per game as a center fielder, with 2.58 putouts and assists per game. As a Cub, he led the team in stolen bases, runs, triples, and walks; he also matched or topped the leader at each of those stats last season for the Orioles.
Fowler will provide the Orioles’ outfield with a second experienced fielder alongside five-time All-Star Adam Jones. Before signing Fowler, Baltimore’s outfield depth consisted of Jones, Nolan Reimold, Dariel Alvarez, Hyun Soo Kim and Joey Rickard. Reimold has spent 369 of his 376 professional games over his seven seasons in Baltimore’s outfield, but has only topped 170 at bats in two of those seasons. He has combined to bat .201 over the last three seasons, posting a negative WAR in 2015.
The other three players are all untested in the major leagues. Alvarez, 27, has played just 12 games at the major-league level, but batted a decent .277/.309/.426 with 16 home runs and 73 RBI in 135 games between Single-A Advanced and Triple-A. He was called-up for his major-league debut in late August of last season, and collected his first career home run.
Kim was signed out of Korea this offseason to a two-year deal worth $7 million. He batted an impressive .326/.438/.541 with 28 home runs and 121 RBI in 141 games. While he has proved his power in Korea, it is yet to be known how he will perform against MLB pitching. Rickard, selected in the Rule 5 Draft, saw time at Single-A Advanced, Double-A, and Triple-A last season. He batted .321/.427/.447 with 23 stolen bases in 117 games, but similar to Alvarez and Kim, has not proven himself against MLB-caliber pitching. Fowler will provide a definitive option for Baltimore in the outfield, while Reimold, Alvarez, Kim, and Rickard will be forced to compete for playing time.
While the rest of the AL East has bolstered their rosters for this upcoming season, the Orioles have remained relatively quiet up until this point. They will need to make some more impactful acquisitions before Opening Day, especially if the Gallardo deal falls through. Their current five starters – Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Gausman, and Mike Wright – combined to post a 4.67 ERA last season. Fowler is a valuable addition, but the Orioles need to go farther or else they will be fighting for contention throughout the duration of the season.
Fowler ended up turning down the Orioles couple due to the fact that they would not include an opt-out clause after the first year. Instead, he has re-signed with the Cubs to a one-year deal worth $8 million with a $9 million mutual-option 2017 deal. To make room for Fowler, the cubs traded outfielder Chris Coghlan to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for right-hander Aaron Brooks.