(CBS) — In a shocking turn of events, the Cubs have re-signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a one-year deal with a 2017 mutual option as well, they announced Thursday.
Fowler, 29, signed for $8 million in 2016, with a $9 million option for 2017 that includes a $5 million buyout, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters at spring training in Mesa, Ariz. Fowler had previously turned down the Cubs’ one-year qualifying offer at the start of the offseason that would’ve been worth $15.8 million.
Reports earlier in the week indicated Fowler had agreed to a three-year, $35-million deal with the Orioles, but Fowler emphasized Thursday that wasn’t true. His agent, Casey Close, released a statement later Thursday blasting the Orioles and the media for jumping to conclusions, saying in 25 years in the business, he’d never “witnessed such irresponsible behavior on so many fronts.”
“Fowler never reached agreement with the Orioles and did not come close to signing with the club,” Close said.
What is clear is that Fowler turned down bigger money to come back to the Cubs.
“This is where my heart is,” Fowler told reporters at Cubs spring training.https://twitter.com/DexterFowler/status/702913288443547648
A big reason the deal fell apart is because the Orioles didn’t agree to include an early opt-out clause that Fowler wanted, 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine reported. From Baltimore’s point of view, it didn’t want to forfeit a first-round pick — the penalty for signing a player who was tendered a qualifying offer — if Fowler was only going to be around for one or two seasons.
Fowler hit .250 with a .346 on-base percentage last season out of the leadoff spot for the Cubs, playing in a career-high 156 games and scoring 104 runs. He also had a career-high 17 homers, 46 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.
The addition of Fowler will make for a crowded outfield in Chicago. It will allow the Cubs to utilize prized offseason acquisition Jason Heyward more in right field, where he’s a three-time Gold Glove winner, but Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber will also be regulars in the outfield mix.
Earlier Thursday, the Cubs had dealt infielder/outfielder Chris Coghlan to the Athletics for a Triple-A pitcher. Despite the logman of sorts in the outfield, there are no more moves in the works there, Epstein told reporters. After spending most of his time in right field, Soler will likely see some time in left field now as well.
The signing of Fowler was a complete surprise to Cubs teammates, as it materialized quickly. He drove from his home in Las Vegas to Phoenix on Wednesday to take a physical, then his signing became official after the Cubs pulled the trigger on the Coghlan deal, which was a needed move for monetary reasons as well as opening up playing time, Epstein told reporters.