Orioles fans thought back in February that the team had Dexter Fowler for three years up until the moment he walked into Cubs camp instead. That was a disappointing decision here in Baltimore since Fowler went on to have a monster season in exactly the ways the Orioles needed.
That whole reversal was good decision for Fowler, though, since he’s now a free agent again, with a monster season for the World Series champion Cubs under his belt. This time, Fowler will be getting the money no one wanted to pay him last year.
The Cubs’ division rivals, the Cardinals, have plucked Fowler away from the champions, according to various news reports, with Jon Heyman putting forth a currently-rumored five-year contract worth somewhere in the $80-90 million range. That’s some big money for a contract that will be starting in Fowler’s age 31 season.
I’ve been eyeing Fowler’s career .366 OBP (.393 in 2016) and imagining what that would look like in an Orioles uniform and what his defensive skills might look like in the outfield compared to Mark Trumbo. It’s hard not to. Yet it seems that the Orioles were never really in the picture this time around.
Whether that’s because there was lingering bad feelings over what happened last February or whether the price tag was too much for what the O’s wanted to pay is not something that really even matters. They didn’t get Fowler and now they’ll have to find someone else instead. That someone will almost assuredly be worse than Fowler in the crucial upcoming 2017 campaign.
Actually, if it was too much money for the O’s, maybe that does matter, if only because if they deem Fowler too expensive at $16-18 million per year and then turn around and re-sign Trumbo most of that amount - say, $13-15 million per year - well, that’s not a decision that would make me very happy.
There’s more to it than just the AAV, of course. If it had to be five years for Fowler, while Trumbo takes four years, or even three years plus an option, that’s significant. Also, the Orioles would have to give up their top draft pick, currently #22 overall, to sign Fowler or any other qualifying offer-attached free agent from another team.
To retain Trumbo, they would essentially give up a compensation pick they never actually had. Those are definite differences. Whether they should have led the O’s to shy away from Fowler is another story.
What’s done is done. The only outfielder worth giving up a pick to sign is off the market. The Cardinals sacrifice their top pick, #18 overall, once the signing goes final. It is still pending a physical, after all - and, given that it’s Fowler, pending him actually showing up in St. Louis for that physical instead of going to Chicago.
With the Cardinals dropping out of the first round, the O’s first round pick moves up to #21 overall, while their potential compensation pick for Trumbo, which they seem bound and determined not to collect, is now at #29 overall. Not that they’re likely to find a star, or even necessarily a useful big leaguer, with either of those picks. It’s the principle of the thing. Get the picks!
At least the Orioles have Rule 5 outfielders Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander in the fold. That was sarcasm just there.