When it comes to outfielder Dexter Fowler and the Orioles, has that bridge been burned? Could the soon-to-be free agent and the Orioles talk contract again after what happened in February?
First a quick review. It was reported on Feb. 23 that Fowler had agreed to a three-year deal with the Orioles worth $33 million. The O’s had obtained a right fielder and leadoff hitter - or so they thought. Two days later, Fowler was still a Chicago Cub, where he went on to have a solid season, ending it with a homer to lead off Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night.
After Fowler’s change of heart, it got ugly. His agent, Casey Close, issued a statement pretty much ripping the Orioles and the media.
“In my 25 years in this business, never before have I witnessed such irresponsible behavior on so many fronts,” Close wrote in a statement posted on Excel Sports Management’s Twitter account. “Both the Orioles front office and members of the media were so busy recklessly spreading rumors that they forgot or simply chose not to concern themselves with the truth.
“The Orioles’ willful disregard of collectively bargained rules governing free agency and the media’s eager complicity in helping the Orioles violate those rules are reprehensible. Dexter Fowler never reached agreement with the Orioles and did not come close to signing with the club; any suggestion otherwise is only a continuation of an already disturbing trend.”
Wow. That was some statement and reads rather harsh, don’t you think? Close didn’t pull any punches, but he did throw a few. After that statement, could the Orioles even negotiate with Fowler and Close again?
Fowler signed a one-year deal worth $8 million with the Cubs with a mutual option for $9 million for 2017. Both sides must agree to the option for next year and Fowler is not expected to exercise his side of it. He is expected to become a free agent and told reporters as much earlier this week.
“I’m definitely going to be a free agent, but hopefully it happens a little bit quicker than last year,” Fowler said on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Thursday night. “You can’t control what goes on, but I loved my time in Chicago and I’m definitely not counting them out, but we’ll see what God has planned for us now.”
This story quotes Fowler saying, “it’s all up in the air how close it was” in regard to the Baltimore deal. “I think I made the right decision. The Cubs came in last minute, we got something done, and it was a decision of a lifetime.”
If he had signed with the Orioles, “I definitely wouldn’t be in this position to bring back history to the Cubbies,” Fowler said.
Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 25 doubles, seven triples, 13 homers and 13 steals in 125 games. He made his first All-Star team. He could certainly bring some speed and on-base capability to an Orioles lineup that lacks it. He has a career line of .268/.366/.422. His on-base percentage stats starting in 2012 through this season are in order: .389, .369, .375, .346 and .393. Fowler will be 31 next opening day, is a switch-hitter, and is said to be a good teammate and high-character guy.
A player with those numbers seems to be just what the Orioles need. But can they move past the mess from February? Can this all be forgiven and forgotten? Can it be just about business, the business of baseball?
Fowler turned down a qualifying offer last year and the Orioles would have given up a pick (No. 28 overall) to sign him in February. He is expected to get another qualifying offer this year.
The Orioles could use Fowler, as could several teams. He figures to get a better contract now. But would he even consider Baltimore? It would be strange to me to hear of any player and his agent not willing to listen to a specific team. The more offers, the better, right?
If not Fowler, there are other free agents the O’s could consider for their outfield. That list includes Josh Reddick, Ian Desmond, Michael Saunders, Jon Jay and Matt Joyce, to name a few. They could attempt to re-sign Michael Bourn, Steve Pearce and, of course, Mark Trumbo. They could look to expand the roles of players they already have, like Hyun Soo Kim and Joey Rickard. They could take a look at Dariel Alvarez or Christian Walker.
The Orioles, I would guess, would be open to talking to Fowler again. He can help them win. The rest they can get past if and when the time comes. A team offering a player $33 million guaranteed is not exactly a bad thing for any player, no matter what happens.
Should the O’s pursue Fowler again?