After helping the Chicago Cubs make it to the National League Championship Series, Dexter Fowler hit free agency. Going into free agency, Fowler thought there would be plenty offers for him. But unfortunately, there was not quite as many as he thought there were. The Cubs seemed to be turning the page on signing him when they signed outfielder Jayson Heyward to an eight-year, $184 million deal. Heyward teamed with Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber seemed like a powerful outfield that could be scary. That move left Fowler in limbo, not knowing where he was going to sign. Eventually, the Baltimore Orioles would put an offer out there for him. But as the offer seemed to be one that he would sign. Fowler and the Cubs rekindled their talks. And after the language in the deal with Baltimore had Fowler giving the Orioles money essentially, the veteran outfielder decided to head back to Chicago, signing a one-year deal worth $13 million with the Cubs. His signing was unexpected and many wondered how the rotation of the outfield would work with him now involved. Now the Cubs are wondering how they could have ever made it to their fast start without him.
The Cubs have picked up where they left off last season, starting the season 18-6. Their offense has been awesome and that all starts with the guy at the top of the order, Fowler. He ended last season hitting .250 with 149 hits and 46 runs batted in. This year, he has taken it up a notch. Fowler is hitting over .350 while on pace for almost 200 hits. Fowler has never been this hot in his career and will probably cool down some eventually. But even if he does cool down, it never hurts to have a guy at the top of the order that can get on base consistently. And with the lineup the Cubs have that features young guns Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, more pressure is placed on the pitchers that they face. And with Heyward following him in the lineup, the Cubs have the least holes in their lineup of any team in baseball. He sets the tone of the Cubs with his bad and his speed that makes pitchers nervous.
But Fowler’s affect just isn’t on offense. Defensively, the Cubs would have had Heyward starting in centerfield to start the season. Heyward can play that position and has done so in the past when he was with Atlanta. But his best position is in right field. He is one of the best at throwing out runners Major League Baseball has to offer but he was set to play out of position. With Fowler coming back, the Cubs get to put him at his natural position and it makes their defense tougher. Imagine in the late innings of games in the playoffs having Fowler in center with Jorge Soler and Heyward flanking him to his left and right respectively. Soler is probably the Cubs best defensive outfielder outside of Heyward and that makes for trouble in late innings for baserunners. Fowler may be flanked by them, but he controls the action out there. His speed covers the gaps and can save the Cubs runs just like Heyward’s arm can. And he also makes all the calls in the outfield that keeps order out there. With Fowler being back, the Cubs are now a better defensive team than they were last season.
Fowler was an afterthought for many, thinking that he was going to do his usual and strikeout a ton while getting stolen bases. But Fowler has proven to be the Cubs most important position player so far and if he keeps this up, the Cubs could be even tougher than they were last season. Imagine if this keeps up and he is able to play a huge role in leading the Cubs to the World Series? There would be no way that he would be leaving Chicago. Not bad for a guy that had to struggle to get signed this offseason. The Cubs are loaded, but he is without question the guy that is setting the tone.