As the MLB Winter Meetings concluded, members of Cardinal Nation were anxiously waiting to see if the Cardinals would make a big splash in free agency.
Now, they have done just that.
The St. Louis Cardinals, entering the off-season with a dire need for a center-fielder, have signed former Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler to a multi-year deal, pending a physical, which he is expected to get Friday. The 31-year old is just weeks removed from helping the Chicago Cubs end their 108-year World Series drought.
It is key to note that the Cubs had sent Fowler a qualifying offer, which he turned down. That means the Cardinals will forfeit the No. 19 pick in the upcoming draft, and the Cubs will receive a compensatory pick.
Comparing the past three years, Fowler has performed better than fellow outfielder and (now former) teammate Jason Heyward, who left St. Louis for Chicago in 2016.
Here’s a look at their stats (last three seasons):
Fowler: .266/.369/.419, 38 HR, 132 xBH, 397 G
Heyward: .265/.339/.383, 31 HR, 125 xBH, 445 G
One of the reasons St. Louis targeted Fowler was his defense. With Fowler now in center field, Randal Grichuk will most likely move into left, while Stephen Piscotty has all-but secured his spot in right field. But that wasn’t the only reason. Fowler’s excellent on-base numbers are supported by a strong walk rate (14.3% last year) and palatable strikeout numbers (22.2% career, which is right at league average).
A leadoff hitter, Fowler had a career high .393 on-base percentage for the Cubs last season. In that same category, the Cardinals were last in the National League (.290).
His stat line was .276/.393/.447 last year, also a career high. Over the course of the past six seasons, Fowler has carried an average line of .271/.371/.428. Currently, Matt Carpenter is the leadoff hitter in St. Louis, but the addition of Fowler gives more flexibility in the lineup, where the youth of the future can blend in with the veterans (such as Carpenter, Yadier Molina, among others).
Fowler has had a lot of success at Busch Stadium as well. His career numbers at Busch: 282/369/489, 131 AB, 6 HR, 7 2B, 14 RBI, and 18 total runs.
The Cardinals will be his fourth team; his career kicked off with the Colorado Rockies. where he played from 2008-13. He made a brief, one-season stop with the Houston Astros following an offseason trade before moving on to Chicago for the 2015 season. He signed a one-year deal rejoin the team last winter just before spring training had begun.
A tentative press conference has been scheduled for Friday morning.