Showing posts with label Dexter Fowler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dexter Fowler. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yoenis Cespedes returning to Mets; Edinson Volquez to Marlins; Jon Jay to Cubs

Yoenis Cespedes
Finally, a few free-agent signings to talk about.

The biggest bat on the market is no longer available. Yoenis Cespedes on Tuesday agreed to return to the New York Mets on a four-year, $110 million contract, pending a physical.

This is a good move for both player and team. The contract is worth $27.5 million a year on average, which is the highest ever for an outfielder in MLB history. Cespedes has to be happy with that, and he also has to be pleased by the full no-trade clause included in the deal.

It's a good move for the Mets because the commitment is four years to a 31-year-old player, not five or six years. That's palatable, especially since New York is 106-74 with Cespedes in the lineup and 18-23 without him since the Cuban slugger joined the team in a midseason trade in 2015.

Cespedes finished eighth in the NL MVP balloting in 2016. He hit .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs, 86 RBIs and 25 doubles.

Volquez to Marlins

The Miami Marlins signed veteran right-hander Edinson Volquez to a two-year deal worth $22 million.

Volquez, 33, had a good season in 2015 for the Kansas City Royals, recording a 3.55 ERA over 200.1 innings and helping the team to its first World Series title in 30 years. But he regressed in 2016, posting a 5.37 ERA while allowing a league-high 113 earned runs.

You can't blame the Royals for moving on. Kansas City has Jason Vargas coming back from arm surgery, and he'll be their No. 4 starter behind Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Ian Kennedy. The Royals still have one spot open in their rotation, and I'm sure they believe they can do better than the declining Volquez.

The Marlins? They need pitching help of any sort after the shocking death of Jose Fernandez in late September. They'll be hoping Volquez can return to his 2015 form with a return to the National League.

Jay to Cubs

I'll call it right now: If the Cubs want to repeat as World Series champions in 2017, they need to re-sign center fielder Dexter Fowler, who ignited their offense in 2016 with a .393 on-base percentage, 84 runs scored and 45 extra-base hits in 125 games.

Apparently, the Cubs are thinking of moving on, however, since they signed veteran Jon Jay to a one-year, $8 million deal. Perhaps the Cubs consider Jay a stopgap measure until prospect Albert Almora is ready for a full-time role.

Jay is capable of playing all three outfield spots, and as a left-handed hitter, he hangs in there nicely against left-handed pitching - .288 lifetime vs. righties, .284 vs. lefties. In 2016, Jay hit .311 against lefties and .282 against righties, so the Cubs don't need to platoon him.

This is a player who will do a decent job for the Cubs, but if Fowler leaves as expected, the North Siders will almost certainly have a lesser offensive player batting leadoff next season.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Indians push Cubs to the brink with dominant Game 4 win

Corey Kluber
First things first: Can we please stop with the narrative about Cubs pitcher John Lackey being great in the postseason?

Yes, Lackey has had some good playoff moments, such as this game, but he's also gotten his butt kicked in some playoff games, such as this one that is fondly remembered by all White Sox fans.

I keep hearing from both local and national media that Lackey is an awesome playoff pitcher, but frankly, at age 38, it looks like his best days are past. The right-hander has been nothing but mediocre for the Cubs in the postseason. He hasn't worked past the fifth inning in any of his three starts, and he's posted a pedestrian 4.85 ERA in only 13 innings.

Lackey was once again so-so Saturday night, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits over five innings in the Cubs' 7-2 loss to Cleveland in Game 4 of the World Series.

The Indians now enjoy a 3-1 series lead and have three chances to close out the Cubs. Game 5 is Sunday night at Wrigley Field.

Lackey was outpitched by Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, who allowed one run on five hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one, while improving to 4-1 with 0.89 ERA in five postseason starts. Kluber pitched on three days' rest, and will be prepared to pitch again in Game 7 if the Cubs somehow extend this series that far.

Kluber left the mound after the sixth inning with a 4-1 lead, and the Tribe broke the game open moments later in the top of the seventh on a three-run homer by second baseman Jason Kipnis. Cleveland got Lackey out of there after five, then capitalized for four runs off Chicago middle relievers Mike Montgomery, Justin Grimm and Travis Wood.

The Cubs had somewhat of a moral victory in the eighth when Dexter Fowler homered off Andrew Miller, thus proving the Cleveland relief ace is mortal. Miller already has set a record for playoff strikeouts in a single season with 29, and that Fowler homer was the first run he has allowed in 17 postseason innings.

Having a 7-2 lead allowed the Indians to rest closer Cody Allen for a night. Dan Otero closed out the ninth inning with no difficulty.

We can't count the Cubs out of this yet, as they have the edge in the pitching matchup in Game 5. Ace Jon Lester is going for the North Siders, and he'll be opposed by the one Cleveland pitcher who has not been doing his job in these playoffs, right-hander Trevor Bauer.

We'll see if the season ends Sunday, or if there will be a Game 6 on Tuesday in Cleveland.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cubs' offensive woes: Is it the pressure or the Dodgers' pitching?

Anthony Rizzo -- 2 for 26 in the playoffs
Panic might be too strong a word, but there is definitely consternation and concern on the streets of Chicago after the Cubs lost, 6-0, to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday in Game 3 of the NLCS.

The Dodgers have taken a 2-1 series lead, and they have limited the Cubs to zero runs on six hits over the past two games combined. Until this week, Los Angeles had never posted back-to-back shutouts in its 200-game playoff history.

The Cubs hadn't been shut out in back-to-back games since May 2014. But in these playoffs, they've scored just 25 runs in seven games and have posted an ugly team slash line of .185/.242/.335.

Some of the individual statistics are even worse:

Addison Russell: 1 for 24, .042 avg.
Anthony Rizzo: 2 for 26, .077 avg.
Jason Heyward: 2 for 19, .105 avg.
Ben Zobrist: 4 for 26, .154 avg.
Dexter Fowler: 5 for 28, .179 avg.

So, five of the Cubs' eight everyday players are a combined 14 for 123. That pencils out to a .114 average. With production like this, the Cubs are lucky they won the NLDS. They were fortunate to play a San Francisco Giants team that had no bullpen whatsoever.

Here's the question with the Cubs (and it's a rhetorical one -- I don't have a definitive answer): Are they struggling because they are facing good pitching, or are they struggling because they are feeling the pressure of trying to end a 108-year World Series drought?

After the Cubs lost, 1-0, to the Dodgers in Game 2, I would have said the Cubs were simply beat by good pitching. They saw Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher of this generation, for seven innings. Then, the next two innings they saw Kenley Jansen, who is one of the top five closers in the game today.

There is no shame in getting shut down by the combination of Kershaw and Jansen.

But then came Game 3, when the Cubs managed only two hits in six innings against Rich Hill, a journeyman who has played for eight teams and was pitching for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League as recently as last year. The Dodgers also used journeyman right-hander Joe Blanton and rookie left-hander Grant Dayton in relief Tuesday, before going to Jansen to close out the game.

Am I wrong for thinking the Cubs, who scored 808 runs this season, should have been able to get something done against the trio of Hill, Blanton and Dayton? I don't believe so.

The Cubs' Game 2 loss struck me as good pitching by the Dodgers. The Cubs' Game 3 loss struck me as bad offense, and a sign that the Cubs might be feeling the pressure.

I can't be sure; I certainly don't have any insight into what the Cubs hitters are thinking at the plate. But I do know this: The Dodgers are starting 20-year-old Julio Urias in Game 4. He's a talented kid, but he's a rookie, and he hasn't thrown as many as 90 pitches in any game since August.

The Cubs should beat this guy, and they better if they want to end their World Series drought this year. If the Cubs lose this game, they are one loss away from elimination, and you already know they are going to see Kershaw one more time before this series is over.

If you're the Cubs -- and, of course, I am not -- you don't want to put yourself in a situation where the best pitcher in baseball can close you out.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

OK, so Dexter Fowler is actually rejoining the Cubs

What the hell is going on with Baltimore?

Yesterday, it looked like Dexter Fowler was the new Orioles right fielder. Today, he has signed a one-year deal to remain with the Cubs.

Fowler’s deal with the Cubs will guarantee him $13 million and could be worth a total of $17 million if both sides pick up a mutual option for 2017, according to an ESPN report. Fowler will make $8 million this season and has a $5 million buyout if he does not receive the $9 million second-year option.

Earlier reports said Fowler had agreed to a three-year, $33 million contract with Baltimore, but reports indicate talks broke down when the Orioles did not grant Fowler's request for an opt-out clause.

Um, OK.

Meanwhile, the Orioles also restructured an agreement with pitcher Yovani Gallardo. The two sides initially agreed to a three-year, $35 million deal, but concerns about the pitcher's shoulder arose during a medical examination.

Gallardo still is signing with the Orioles, but he's going there on a two-year deal worth $22 million that includes an option for a third year, according to an ESPN report.

Hopefully that sets the record straight. I don't think I'm going to write anything more about the Orioles this week. Wait five minutes and the story could change again.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Orioles put Gallardo deal on hold, agree on terms with Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler
Remember what we said about the Baltimore Orioles signing pitcher Yovani Gallardo? Never mind, at least for now. That deal is on hold after questions about the veteran right-hander's health emerged during a team physical.

This isn't the first time Baltimore has uncovered issues with a free-agent pitcher during a medical examination. Remember Grant Balfour? The Orioles spiked a deal they had with him in 2013 over a problem they found during a physical. Balfour ended up signing with Tampa Bay, and never pitched well during his time with the Rays. He ended up being released before the completion of his two-year contract.

With the Gallardo deal possibly unraveling, the Orioles added to their offense on Tuesday, agreeing to terms on a three-year, $33 million contract with outfielder Dexter Fowler.

Fowler, 29, hit .250/.346/.411 with 17 home runs and 46 RBIs in 156 games with the Cubs last year. He figures to bat leadoff for Orioles, as he did in Chicago, but with Adam Jones anchoring center field in Baltimore, Fowler is destined for a move to a corner outfield spot.

Fowler's free agency didn't seem to generate a lot of interest because of a qualifying offer. The Cubs offered him the one-year, $15.8 million deal, which Fowler declined. As a result, the Orioles now owe the Cubs a draft pick.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

White Sox, Cubs top two suitors for Dexter Fowler?

Dexter Fowler
I'm not sure I buy this NBC Sports report that says the White Sox and the Cubs "appear to be the two teams with the most interest" in Dexter Fowler.

I'm especially skeptical because the source appears to be Bruce Levine of 670 The Score. The Score isn't exactly the place I go to get intelligent baseball talk, but that's a blog for another day.

Just for grins, let's discuss the possibility of Fowler landing on either side of Chicago. I think it makes a lot of sense for him to go back to the Cubs, for whom he hit .250/.346/.411 with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 156 games last year. In contrast, I don't think Fowler is the right guy for the Sox, but more on that in a minute.

First, let's look at why Fowler is a good fit for the Cubs: Well, he was their center fielder last year when they won 97 games, and they haven't replaced him with anybody else. I know what you're thinking. Didn't the Cubs sign outfielder Jason Heyward to a eight-year mega-deal worth $23 million a year?

Yes, yes, they did.

But let's think logically about Heyward's skill set. What is it that he does well that makes him worth all those millions? He's the best defensive right fielder in baseball, right? He's got three Gold Gloves in the past four years that prove that.

That being the case, why would the Cubs pay Heyward, the best defensive right fielder in baseball, $23 million to be an average or slightly above-average center fielder? Wouldn't it make much more sense to re-sign Fowler to play center field, put Heyward in right field where he belongs and trade Jorge Soler to help solidify a top-heavy pitching staff?

Yes, I think that makes a lot of sense. And unlike other teams, the Cubs wouldn't have to surrender draft pick compensation to sign Fowler. You better believe that qualifying offer has contributed to a slow market for Fowler. It's moot if he goes back to the Cubs.

As for the White Sox, one of the things that's perplexing about this report is that it calls for the Sox to sign Fowler to play center field and move Adam Eaton to right field. Huh?

I feel like Fowler would be redundant with Eaton on the Sox roster. Let's look at some numbers:

2015:
Eaton: .287/.361/.431, 14 HRs, 18 stolen bases
Fowler: .250/.346/.411, 17 HRs, 20 stolen bases

Career:
Eaton: .284/.355/.407
Fowler: .267/.363/.418

Pretty similar players, right? The Sox already have Eaton, a center fielder with some pop and some speed who can bat leadoff and get on base. Why give up a draft pick to sign Fowler, when he essentially provides the same thing?

What the Sox really need is a corner outfielder who can hit the ball over the fence. Incumbent corner outfielders Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia combined for only 25 home runs last season. Fowler doesn't offer a big upgrade over that, as the 17 homers he hit last year represent a career high. His career norm is 11 home runs per 162 games, which is less than what Cabrera and Garcia hit last year.

Further, there's no evidence that Fowler offers a defensive upgrade over Eaton. Let's take a look at Fowler's defensive WAR over the past five years:

2011: -0.1
2012: -0.8
2013: -0.2
2014: -1.8
2015: -1.0

Five straight years of negative defensive WAR.

Eaton's defense is a little harder to judge, based on the two years he's been a full-time player with the Sox:

2014: +1.8
2015: -1.1

Eaton was a Gold Glove finalist two years ago, then slipped defensively for unknown reasons last year. I need to see what he does this year to make a more firm judgment on what kind of defensive player he'll be over the long haul, but Fowler has a more established track record of being mediocre (at best) in center field. The Eaton we saw in 2014 is clearly superior to Fowler defensively, so I wouldn't be signing Fowler in order to move Eaton to right field.

It just doesn't make a lot of sense for the Sox to bid too high, or even bid at all, on Fowler.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Four notable free agents remain on the market

Ian Desmond
This offseason, there were 16 players who received qualifying offers from their teams and declined them, opting instead to become free agents. Twelve of them have signed; four remain on the market as of Tuesday afternoon:

1. Dexter Fowler, outfielder: Fowler is coming off a decent season with the Cubs, where he posted a .250/.346/.411 slash with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases. His on-base percentage was actually down a little bit last year from his career norm of .363, but he's always been a guy who gets on base at a decent clip at the top of a lineup. However, he is horribly miscast as a center fielder -- he's posted a negative defensive WAR in each of the past five seasons. And he lacks the arm strength to play right field. Those defensive warts are likely why he's still on the market, with teams reluctant to surrender a draft pick to sign him.

2. Ian Desmond, shortstop: Desmond picked a bad time to have a horrible year in 2015, .233/.290/.384 with 19 home runs, 62 RBIs and 27 errors. All those figures are worse than his career norms, and despite a weak crop of free-agent shortstops, nobody has been willing to meet his asking price -- especially with the draft pick compensation attached. Desmond, 30, may have to change positions to convince a team to take a chance on him at this point.

3. Howie Kendrick, second base: It's a little bit surprising this guy is still available, especially with second basemen who can hit being hard to come by. Again, the draft pick thing is a major hindrance, but GMs should know what they are getting in Kendrick. His batting average has been between .285 and .297 in each of the past five years. His on-base percentage has been between .325 and .347 in each of the past five years. Not much variance. Kendrick is 32, so he's not going to command a four or five-year contract, but you would think he would be a nice option for a team looking for a second baseman on a two- or three-year deal. This is a consistent player.

4. Yovani Gallardo, pitcher: Gallardo's days of being a top-of-the-rotation pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers are past, but give him credit for surviving despite a noticeable decline in his stuff. He can't overpower anybody anymore, yet he still managed to go 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA in 33 starts with the Texas Rangers last year -- his first season in the American League. There are a lot of career NLers who have had a much more difficult adjustment to the AL than that. That said, Gallardo's strikeout rate has fallen from 25.9 percent to 15.3 percent. Even though Gallardo will only be 30 on Opening Day, he's got nearly 1,500 big-league innings on his arm, and that seems to be taking a toll.

Other notable players still available:

David Freese, third baseman
Doug Fister, pitcher
Justin Morneau, first baseman
Tyler Clippard, relief pitcher
Tim Lincecum, pitcher
Austin Jackson, outfielder
Steve Pearce, outfielder
Mat Latos, pitcher
Juan Uribe, infielder
Pedro Alvarez, first baseman

Friday, January 8, 2016

Denard Span agrees to terms with Giants; outfield market starts to move

Denard Span
Now that Alex Gordon has re-signed with the Kansas City Royals, maybe we'll see some of the other free-agent outfielders come off the board this weekend. There was more movement Thursday, as the San Francisco Giants agreed to terms on a three-year, $31 million deal with veteran outfielder Denard Span.

Hip surgery limited Span to 61 games last year, but he did hit .302 with a league-leading 184 hits for the Washington Nationals in 2014. If healthy, he's a good fit in San Francisco. He'll bat leadoff and play center field, and the Giants can move the oft-injured Angel Pagan over to left field -- and allow Gregor Blanco to slide into the fourth outfielder role, which is where he belongs. With Hunter Pence in right field, San Francisco appears to be in good shape in the outfield.

Other teams, including the White Sox, Baltimore, Detroit, Texas and L.A. Angels, still could use some outfield help, and there remain plenty of useful players on the market.

Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are the most attractive options for teams seeking an outfielder, but even with Span off the board, there are a few other decent second-tier guys available, including Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra and Austin Jackson.

According to a tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Sox have not changed their stance on free-agent outfielders: They aren't willing to go beyond three years on a contract length for any of these guys. We have no way of knowing whether that's true, or just posturing, but it would be my speculation that the Sox aren't going to land Cespedes or Upton if they are unwilling to give at least a fourth year.