If the St. Louis Cardinals aren’t confident that outfielder Dexter Fowler can rebound from a horrific second season in red, they might as well part ways sooner than later.
I’m sure the Redbirds front office folks hope Fowler can have a strong spring and create some sort of trade interest that allows the team some salary relief from the three years left on the switch hitter’s five-year contract. But, realistically, what are the odds that’s going to happen, no matter how well he hits in Grapefruit League play?
Managing to play in only 90 games last year, Fowler hit an appalling .180 with 75 strikeouts in 285 at-bats. He’s going to be 33 years old and, including owed installments of his signing bonus, he’s owed $16.5 million each of the next three seasons. Even if another team wanted Fowler, he has a no-trade clause that is going to create a lot of complications when it comes to trying to hammer out a deal. Who would want a player with Fowler’s contract? Not many contenders need a pricey, brittle fifth outfielder. Although, if I was general manager of the Cardinals, I would publicly call the bluff of the Chicago Cubs who came dangerously close to tampering with another club’s player when their manager Joe Maddon publicly weighed in on the feud between Fowler and former St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny. If the Cubs think Fowler is so great, offer him to the Wee Bears for nothing in return but taking the outfielder’s contract. It’s not going to work. But maybe it will be a little bit of fun.
It’s a tough pill to swallow. But the truth is the team is going to have to pay it one way or another. So, the only thing to consider is putting the best team on the field.
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Less than a week after the World Series ended, it’s been discussed to death that right field is one of the prime places the Cardinals have room to improve. Free agent slugger Bryce Harper would be a fit there as might a couple of lesser available players. Even youngsters Tyler O’Neill and, Harrison Bader and Adolis Garcia could be more productive in right field than a hobbled and slowed Fowler.
Perhaps, at this point, the most valuable role Fowler could play would be as a fourth or fifth outfielder and a pinch hitter who could bat from both sides of the plate. But to do that he’s going to have to show a lot more range in the field and pop at the plate than we saw last season. After what happened last season, it’s fairly obvious that Fowler isn’t going to be happy playing a couple times a week. And he probably won’t be very productive in that role.
Utility player Greg Garcia was sacrificed by the Cardinals on Thursday to open up a 40-man roster spot and more subtractions are likely in the coming days as St. Louis tries to make some moves to improve over the winter. Is it worth it to potentially lose a prospect in the Rule Five draft to hold on to a guy that has no future with the club?
The only reason to keep Fowler is if the team honestly believes Fowler’s 2018 season was a total fluke and that he’s going to return to his previous form that would allow him to be a second place hitter with a high on-base percentage and good speed. But even then, where will St. Louis try to improve its team upon a third-place finish last year? First base is locked in with Matt Carpenter, it seems Kolten Wong has finally established himself at second. Paul DeJong is the shortstop for years to come, Marcel Ozuna is in left field for at least another year and Bader seems to have arrived. When you figure that Yadier Molina is the heart and soul of this team behind the plate, that leaves either right field or third base as the only spots to put a new addition. And the pickings are a lot slimmer at third than they are in the the outfield.