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Should the Diamondbacks target OF Dexter Fowler in free agency?

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

One of the areas the Diamondbacks could look to improve is in the outfield, especially at the corners. One of the players on the free agent market is Dexter Fowler from the Chicago Cubs. Fowler was in a similar boat a year ago and nearly signed with the Baltimore Orioles before returning to Chicago and helping the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. Fowler played in 125 games for the Cubs, posting a .276/.393/.447 slash that resulted in a 129 wRC+ that is an upgrade over Yasmany Tomás' 109 clip. It's no question that Fowler is a perceived upgrade over Tomas in left field both offensively and defensively and would fit in the lineup, the question becomes will the Diamondbacks target him in free agency?


Fowler would obviously slide in at the leadoff spot in the order and allow the rest of the lineup to play in a better spot for success. The domino effect would slide AJ Pollock to the #3 spot, Paul Goldschmidt to clean up, and Jake Lamb to 5th. His defense should easily be better than Tomas' and while the team is sacrificing power, they are gaining defense and on-base ability. The deep outfield dimensions puts a premium on strong outfield defense, which was one of the strengths of a 2011 Diamondbacks team that defied all predictions and made the postseason. Fowler would slide over from center to left field with a superior defender in Pollock manning center.

For concerns about his .350 BABIP in 2016, that's only 8 points above his career average of .342 and his speed generates extra bases. A player with considerable speed and a threat at the top of the order sets the table for a good fastball hitter like David Peralta in the #2 spot. I have Fowler projecting to 3 WAR in 2017 and over 4 years a total of 10 WAR. Overall I do expect some decline in both speed and defense as he's on the wrong side of 30 now and will be playing in a tougher ballpark than Wrigley Field.


At the minimum, it would take a 4-year deal well north of $15M a season to sign Fowler considering how bad the Diamondbacks currently are. I'm not sure if the Diamondbacks can afford to sign him in the first place and considering Fowler is one of the hottest FA names on the market, it's quite possible the team gets outbid. It's very likely he gets a deal that closes in on $75-80M over 4 years as well. With Zack Greinke, Yasmany Tomas', Paul Goldschmidt, and AJ Pollock making a combined $60M by themselves, it's going to be difficult to fit in another $17-18M on a $100M payroll. Obviously the first remedy would be to rid themselves of the Tomas contract, another issue in itself.

There is also quite the possibility that he regresses to his pre-Chicago days where he was a 1-2 WAR player. If the Diamondbacks get that player, then it's a terrible overpay. The team already has two bad contracts with Tomas and Greinke, adding a third would make it very difficult for the team to build a lasting contender short of increasing payroll. Players that have come to Arizona have notoriously regressed to the point where I think there is a fundamental problem with the organization from top to bottom. Now there's always the chance that could change since the team has overhauled a lot of the organizational structure in the offseason.


I don't see the team targeting Fowler because of his price tag of $15M+ a year in addition to having to forfeit their 2nd round pick. Even though the team has had issues turning draft pick talent into MLB players of late, with a small market payroll the 2nd round pick and the six years of control that come with it are more valuable. If the team was contending or very close, this move would make a lot of sense. However, given budget constraints and the sad state of the franchise it's a move Hazen will likely avoid. It's not necessarily a bad on-field fit because he would no doubt make the team better, but adding a 3 WAR player takes the team from my projection of 76 wins up to 79 wins, which would mean the team needs to find another 10 games and they don't have the money to do so.