JAYS FROM THE COUCH LOOKS AT WHY DEXTER FOWLER IS THE PERFECT FIT FOR THE BLUE JAYS, BUT AN UNLIKELY TARGET.
We are officially in rumor mode. With articles and tweets of speculation by the hour, it can be hard to keep up with everything being whispered about your favorite team. The Blue Jays have a lot of free agents hitting the market this offseason, thus a lot of holes to fill at the major league level. With that comes their name being throw into every trade rumor, and free agent signing. One name that has been mentioned a lot, is outfielder and World Series Champion Dexter Fowler. On paper, Fowler would be the perfect fit for the Blue Jays next season, but is it likely?
Corner outfielders Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders will both be hitting the market as UFA’s, meaning that Melvin Upton Jr. Ezequiel Carrera, or even Dalton Pompey could get an increase in playing time. It’s hard to imagine any of those players contributing 100+ games of efficient baseball, and they will more likely serve as platoon positions. Offensively, all three players have had their major ups and downs.
Upton will most likely see the most playing time out of the three names mentioned. Upton had a rough season in Toronto, batting .196/.261/.318, hitting 4 home runs, and striking out 29.7% of his at bats. It’s hard to imagine him playing this poorly in his second year with the Blue Jays, and with increased playing time we could potentially see Upton move into more of a full time role.
Carrera was amazing in the playoffs, hitting over .300, but with .25 BB/K, and an absurd BABIP of .375, he was more likely in a hot streak and this play isn’t likely sustainable over a longer period of time. Carrera shows a lot of promise defensively with 7 DRS, and a 10.3 UZR/150 in his 643.1 innings in the outfield in 2016, if his bat becomes a hole in the lineup he won’t get major playing time.
Finally, Pompey is a promising prospect who put up nice numbers in Buffalo this season even through some injury struggles. When Pompey has gotten AB’s and major playing time (granted that’s now a few years ago) he has struggled to produce, so weather or not he’s ready to perform at the major league level continues to be a question mark.
Dexter Fowler who is turning 31 years old this offseason, seems to be a late bloomer as the two best years of his career were these past two season. Fowler in 2016 was impressive, and was worthy of his All-Star nod. The switch hitter finished with a slash line of .276/.393/.447, hitting 13 home runs, and driving in 48. Where Fowler’s game really shines is in his 14.3% walk rate, which ranked him 10th in the entire MLB. For someone who isn’t really a power threat he sees a ton of pitches at the plate, his average plate appearance last season saw 4.41 pitches, where league average is 3.89 pitches.
Fowler goes up to the plate looking at pitches, being extremely selective with pitches he swings at. In total, he only swings at 39% of all pitches, 7.5% under the league average. His recognition is amazing, only swinging at 19.4% of pitches outside of the strike zone which is a staggering 10.9% under the league average. With pitches inside the strike zone, Fowler is basically league average showing that his recognition at the plate is at a very elite level. This level of pitch recognition, and understanding of the strike zone is very valuable in any lineup, working the pitcher for as many pitches as possible, and having the ability to keep innings going.
Getting on base is only where Fowler begins to be a threat, with the ability to to steal 13-20 bases a season. This past season Fowler finished with a BsR of 6.2, which is base running runs above average which includes the players stolen base and caught stealing numbers. A BsR of 6.2 ranked him 8th in the MLB – this is because of Fowler’s great ability to turn hits into the outfield into extra base hits. Last season the Blue Jays were a very bad base running team, ranking 25th in BsR at -8.6. For a team that struggled to score run for stretches, the Blue Jays are seeking players who are plus base runners. Players that can help their offense when the bats aren’t firing on all cylinders.
The Blue also struggled finding a consistent leadoff batter this season, Fowler is everything you would ever want in a leadoff hitter. He’s an on base machine, works high pitch counts, has great speed on the base paths, and is a switch hitter. Continuity in a batting lineup is important, the Blue Jays had a revolving door at the top of the order this season, and sometimes the security of knowing a player is going to play, and where they are going to play is very important to their production.
Having a staple plater in a position as important as the leadoff could be huge for the Blue Jays offense. In 2015 the Blue Jays offense was scary good, having Ben Revere in that top spot performing like a leadoff hitter set the table for the rest of the order. The 2016 Blue Jays weren’t as good offensively, not to say that having a consistent leadoff hitter was the root of all their problems but it certainly was a contributor.
Look, I want Fowler more than anyone. He’s the perfect fit for the Blue Jays, his skill set fixes a lot of the questions marks the Blue Jays have going into next season. At the same time, these rumors are most likely just rumors. Fowler was obviously offered a qualifying offer by the Cubs when he hit free agency. Being worth way more than the qualifying offer he declined it and is now a free agent. The decline of the qualifying offer means attached to Fowler’s free agency is a draft pick that needs to be surrendered by the team that signs him. With the Blue Jays trying to rebuild their farm system, the Blue Jays won’t want to give up a draft pick, along with spending anywhere between $15-20 million a season, the proposition is hard to fathom.
Fowler is a hot commodity in this year’s free agent class. While we might normally say he gets paid between $15-20 million, with the free agent class being so weak this year, it wouldn’t be surprising if Fowler got more than $20 million dollars a season. The Blue Jays have indicated they will be increasing their payroll next season, and potentially could be trading at least 4-5 players within their system. Fowler is a nice thought, but probably not worth the Blue Jays putting all their eggs in one basket for.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Spencer Redmond is a Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. His loves in life are the NBA, MLB, Stats, and his dog Parker.