By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — The story of outfielder Dexter Fowler re-signing with the Cubs seems to have had so many moving parts, including a two-year offer from the White Sox, who submitted more than the $17 million the Cubs ultimately gave Fowler to return to the North Side. The difference is the White Sox’s offer didn’t have the mutual option to rescind the deal after one season. Fowler will be paid $8 million in 2016 by the Cubs, with the mutual option of $9 million for 2017 or a $5 million buyout.
Fowler was thrilled to walk back into the Cubs’ spring training complex on Friday morning, a day after he shocked the baseball world be returning to the Cubs after reports surfaced earlier in the week that he was headed to the Orioles.
“It’s awesome to be back in here,” Fowler said. “It’s good to get out and see them all and the new faces in here as well.”
The White Sox were one of many teams talking contract terms with Fowler and agent Casey Close. The up-and-down events made for a turbulent free-agent experience for Fowler, who in November turned down the Cubs’ one-year qualifying offer for $15.8 million.
“I felt like I was in corporate America,” Fowler said of this economics lesson. “We were talking deals with my agent. We had many meetings. All the talking that occurred, I am glad to get back to baseball.”
The Cubs and White Sox were both looking for run scorers and run producers this offseason. After missing out on Fowler, the White Sox will continue their pursuit of a left-handed bat and outfielder this spring.
As for the 29-year-old Fowler, he has a chance to go back on the free-agent market this November. If he does, he’ll get the $5 million buyout from the Cubs, bringing his total to $13 million for one season of work. Fowler hit .250 with a .346 on-base percentage and 102 runs out of the Cubs’ lead-off spot in 2015.
“There were ups and downs in the process,” Fowler said. “At the end of the day, you learn, the whole process you see what is going on. You deal with the union. You talk to different owners and players. They say the best medicine is experience.”
The Orioles’ offer that some reported to be finalized was for three years in the area of $33 million.
“My heart was telling me to come back here,” Fowler said of returning to the Cubs. “Like I said, this is my family over here. It’s good to be back and see everyone.”
Fowler doesn’t anticipate any issues with playing time, despite the fact the Cubs appear to have four full-time candidates in the outfield.
“We knew that there will be four everyday outfielders out here,” he said. “We are all going to get a chance to play. It’s not a big thing. We are all going to get a chance to play. The most important thing is winning. Whatever matchup (manager Joe Maddon) puts out there, I think everybody is ready to go out there and play.”
As for the White Sox, they’ll look to talk with teams like the Rockies, who at some point will trade slugging outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Reds outfielder Jay Bruce is also on the market and will likely be dealt at some juncture in 2016.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.