It seems that most people think that St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler’s contract is going to keep him calling Busch Stadium home for at least the vast majority of its five-year term.
But what if it turned out that Fowler was the odd man out in the pending St. Louis outfield shuffle?
Fowler has a full no-trade clause as part of his $82.5-million pact. But there have been some rumblings to the effect that he has been an uneasy fit with the Redbirds, drawing irritation of veterans and management from allegedly being the last person to arrive and the first to leave on game days. Maybe he just doesn’t like life in St. Louis after playing for the arch-rival Cubs for several years.
Would Fowler find life in beautiful Miami to be more attractive? Would the Marlins be willing to take Fowler and the approximately $65 million and four years left on his deal in exchange for St. Louis taking on the $295 million coming to slugging right fielder Giancarlo Stanton if he doesn’t opt out of his pact after the 2020 season? Would they take Fowler’s money to convince the Birds to throw a couple of good prospects into the swap?
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I like Fowler. In my opinion, his days of playing center field are behind him. But I like his bat and his speed. Fowler could be a decent left fielder since he’d be required to cover less ground there and maybe the reduced wear and tear would help him to stay on the field more consistently. But if the Cardinals were able to add Stanton in right field, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk or Harrison Bader would each represent a better defensive option in center.
Fowler could be a valuable player for the Birds over the next four years. However, St. Louis is well covered at his position and could benefit more from freeing up the highly paid outfielder’s payroll slot to be used to add to the pitching staff. While it might seem like a tough sell to trade Fowler, it would be a lot easier for a team like Miami to pay him than it would be to keep shelling out megabucks to pay Stanton for the next decade.
Another seemingly entrenched Cardinals player that could conceivably be on the go is second baseman Kolten Wong.
The Birds have been linked to Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson and the Jays have been rumored to be looking for help at second base. Darwin Barney is playing second base north of the border with a .232 batting average, a .275 on-base percentage and a .327 slugging percentage.
While Wong, by many measures, had his best season in the big leagues in 2017, he plays a position where the Birds have plenty of coverage. If Wong was traded tomorrow, especially if Donaldson took over at third, Jedd Gyorko could rotate over from third to second without missing a beat. Or former starting shortstop Aledmys Diaz could find new life in the big leagues, playing a position where his lack of range could be compensated for by playing deeper thanks to the shorter throw from second base to first.
Of course, maybe Toronto, an American League team, would prefer Gyorko’s power to Wong’s superior speed and range and that prospective swap could be flip-flopped.
Maybe the Blue Jays would be interested in Fowler, too. They have a vacancy in the outfield and have been rumored to be interested in former Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets and Cleveland Indians outfielder Jay Bruce in free agency. Supposedly, the Jays were one of the most competitive bidders a year ago when Fowler opted to go to St. Louis for an extra year. Would Fowler waive his no-trade clause to head to Toronto?
Peeling a couple of veterans might help the Cardinals resolve their 40-man roster jam which will otherwise come to a head in two weeks. At that point, if the Cardinals don’t find a place for some of the team’s prospects, it would effectively give them away in the Rule 5 draft. While teams usually don’t like to give away multiple players for just one in return, this time that sort of deal would likely be in the interests of St. Louis.