My Top Free Agent Target For The Toronto Blue Jays: Dexter Fowler
The off-season is underway and the rumour mill surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays and Edwin Encarnacion has already been stirring due to reports from Shi Davidi of Rogers Sportsnet that the Blue Jays are making a hard push to bring Encarnacion back. While bringing back Encarnacion is at the front of everyone’s mind, I want to turn my attention to my personal favourite free agent that I believe makes perfect sense for Toronto to pursue. That is newly crowned World Series Champion, the center fielder for the Chicago Cubs, Dexter Fowler.
Fowler had a cup of coffee in the majors with the Colorado Rockies in 2008 and solidified himself as the everyday guy in center at Coors Field in 2009. Each season, Fowler grew into a more complete player both offensively and defensively as evidenced by his fWAR totals below:
- 2009 – 0.7 fWAR
- 2010 – 1.0
- 2011 – 2.1
- 2012 – 2.3
- 2013 – 2.2
- 2014 – 1.5 (with the Houston Astros)
- 2015 – 3.3 (with the Cubs)
- 2016 – 4.7 (Cubs)
While Fowler may not be the greatest defensive center fielder, he certainly has improved his game as his dWAR (defensive WAR) has improved every season since 2014. 2014 was a bit of a disaster for Fowler playing in Houston dealing with Tal’s Hill in center. However, when Fowler went to the Cubs in 2015, his defensive improved to be a shade above average defensively, and improved yet again in 2016. Now, the Blue Jays already have a center fielder in Kevin Pillar, so my case for Fowler in Toronto would have him playing left field to replace Michael Saunders who likely will not be back in 2017.
For his career, Fowler owns a career triple slash of .268/.366/.422. Not bad at all. His OBP is nearly a full .100 higher than his batting average because Fowler does take a lot of walks. He has a decent eye at the plate as evidenced by his career BB% of 12.6% and K% of 22.2%. He does also bring some power to his game with 17 home runs in 2015 and 13 in 2016. With Fowler’s ability to get on base at a good clip, he scores a ton of runs too. In 2015, Fowler touched home plate 102 times and 84 in 2016. He has a career 110 wRC+ to top it all off.
The other element of Fowler’s game that I love is his baserunning. He may not be a burner, but Fowler has stolen at least 11 bases each of his full seasons in the majors. His BsR (base running runs above average) has always been in the positives and is at 27.6 for his career. Not bad at all. He truly does bring a mix of everything to his game.
As you can see by some of the stats above, Fowler can play decent defense, his hits for a decent average, okay power, he walks, and can steal some bases all while scoring runs in bunches. He also leads off and is a switch hitter, something the new regime of Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins would like to address for 2017. The Blue Jays were awfully right handed heavy. Fowler could present the perfect scenario as a switch hitting lead off guy for Toronto to add some balance to the order. The splits are pretty even too, so he can hit both right handers and left handers quite well.
There are so many things I find most intriguing about Dexter Fowler. This years free agent crop is rather sparse. Fowler is definitely in the top 10 of available free agent hitters, making him someone who will be sought after. He does have a qualifying offer attached to him which makes it interesting if Atkins and Shapiro decide to pursue him and forfeit a draft pick, though it could be a wash if Jose Bautista bolts for another team, which does seem likely.
Dexter Fowler is my top target as a free agent if I were running the team. He adds a different dimension to an offense that needs some more left handed hitters and he does bring a wide variety of skill to his game. It is easy for me to see why I want Fowler so badly. Do you think Fowler is a fit in Toronto?