MESA, Arizona -- Now that I've returned from Mesa to my computer so I can write with a little more time about Dexter Fowler re-signing with the Cubs, let me just say first that these things seem to happen fairly often when I'm away from my keyboard. I vividly remember trying frantically to write a short article from my phone the day Jim Hendry was fired, because I had just arrived at the ballpark for that day's game. (It worked, though it was a pretty short article.)
Anyway, Dexter Fowler played 152 games in center field for the Cubs in 2015, starting 149 of them. In fact, he hasn't played anywhere in the outfield but center field since he played one inning in right field for the Rockies during a 13-game September callup in 2008.
If you believe these tweets, we might see Dex back in center field, Jason Heyward back in his familiar position in right, and an interesting platoon in left field:
Guess #Cubs have leadoff man now. Could be Fowler CF, Zo 2B, Riz 1B, Bryant 3B, Heyward RF, Schwarber/Soler LF, Montero C, Russell SS— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) February 25, 2016
With Fowler's return, #Cubs Theo says, "Now, versus 24 hours ago, you'll see a lot more of Jason Heyward in right field"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) February 25, 2016
This does make a lot of sense, though it also, if it happens that way, could lead to much-reduced playing time for Jorge Soler if he's strictly a platoon left fielder. Of course, Kyle Schwarber will spend some time behind the plate and he's the likely designated hitter for the 10 games the Cubs play in American League parks this year, which include the first two games of the regular season against the Angels in Anaheim.
It also raises a question about Javier Baez's role on this team. At this point he'd be essentially the "fifth" outfielder, though he of course can also play shortstop, second base and third base. So can Tommy La Stella, who is in competition for one of the last spots on the team.
In addition, with the trade of Chris Coghlan Thursday, that leaves the Cubs without a traditional backup first baseman. Ben Zobrist has played there before, but just 17 games overall and not since 2010. Kris Bryant played a bit of first base last year and he could work out as the backup to Anthony Rizzo.
Baez, of course, has options and could again wind up starting the year at Triple-A Iowa, although Joe Maddon has made no secret of the fact that he likes Baez. My feeling is that Baez stays with the team after camp and is on the 25-man roster, but the Cubs do have a lot of moving parts at this point.
We all know that Fowler was an excellent leadoff man for the Cubs in 2015 and I don't have any doubt he can do the same in 2016. It's entirely possible that the Cubs and Fowler have a handshake agreement that the Cubs won't extend a qualifying offer after this year, which would make Fowler an "unrestricted" free agent of sorts. It's likely the draft pick compensation that narrowed Fowler's options. With the deal he signed, he essentially gets (about) $13 million for one year, then he can go on the open market.
Fowler has many options going forward after 2016, but his signing gives the Cubs quite a bit of position flexibility, as well as bringing back a great clubhouse guy and an important part of last year's 97-win team. The ovation the team gave him on the field as he was being introduced -- and I had no idea this was happening until the word spread swiftly around the couple of hundred people watching workouts -- shows you the respect and love the Cubs have for Fowler and I wish you could have been there to hear it.
Speaking of the day's workouts, I will have some photos and video later this afternoon.
Finally, since I left a poll about Fowler off of the last post about him, please vote here.