Dexter Fowler is about to head to Arizona to join his Colorado Rockies teammates in Spring Training, but for much of the off-season, whether he’d still be a member of the team at this point was very much in doubt.
The Rockies were looking for a pitcher, and they weren’t afraid to shop their talented center fielder to get it. Fowler’s named had linked to no less than four teams over the last couple of months, with the most heated rumors being with the Cincinnati Reds, who had starters like Mike Leake and Homer Bailey that the Rox coveted.
Nothing happened in the end, though. The Reds kept their starters and acquired Shin-Soo Choo, and the Rockies’ discussions with other clubs never went far enough for them to ship out Fowler.
So instead, they made him a part of the team’s near future, by signing the 26-year old to a two-year $11.6 million deal to avoid the next couple of years of arbitration.
The deal is back-loaded, with Fowler’s salary jumping from $4.25 million this season all the way to $7.35 million next year, so I suppose there’s a chance that all of these trade talks could resurface again, now that there’s some cost certainty for the player next year.
It seems unlikely that the team would want to do so, though, as Fowler might just end up being the most valuable Rockies outfielder in 2013. Yes, Carlos Gonzalez is an excellent player with superstar potential, but with $71 million being committed to him through 2017, he’ll have to hit that potential consistently, or the Rockies will be in serious trouble.
Fowler will make only a fraction of that, and his 2.9 fWAR season in 2012 already yielded more value for the Rockies than CarGo’s 2.7. That’s not to say that he’s necessarily a better player, because Gonzalez could just as well end up with a 6.0 fWAR season in 2013, but that Fowler gave the team a near elite .863 OPS production over a 2012 bodes well for his two year deal to be a more cost-efficient proposition.
At the very least, Fowler seems like a good bet to outperform Michael Cuddyer and his $21 million over the next two years.
It’s not necessarily the case that he’ll top out there, too. Fowler will be headed into his age-27 prime in the coming season, and set career-highs in homers (13) and across his triple-slash. His 123 wRC+ ranks him seventh among qualified MLB center fielders, and he compares very favourably to buzzier names like Austin Jackson.
Whether he’ll take the next step at 27-years old will be seen, but after a full off-season of trying to shop their center fielder, the Rockies have probably made the right choice in seeing exactly what he can become.