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Is Dexter Fowler a fit for Cardinals?

Cardinals

If you’re a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, this offseason has felt a bit like a raid.

We heard John Mozeliak tout the team’s supposed “payroll muscle” leading into what appeared to be an aggressive winter for the Cards. Instead, the front-office has seemingly watched with its hands tied behind its back as the Chicago Cubs have pillaged the Redbirds of its top pitcher from 2015 (John Lackey) and its best-producing position player (Jason Heyward) as well. 

Now as the team prepares to head down to Jupiter for spring training, it carries with them a slew of question marks regarding its offense. As the Cubs appear to be stronger than ever, how could the Cardinals’ brass be content to enter the 2016 campaign with a depleted version of a roster that was effortlessly neutralized in the NLDS by the aforementioned North-Siders?

The company line is that the Cardinals haven’t pursued an additional offensive weapon because they are concerned about blocking some of the young talent from seeing ample field-time. The likes of Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham are penciled in the minds of Cardinal Nation as candidates for significant roles in the 2016 outfield alongside Matt Holliday. Adding a veteran outfielder through free agency, Mozeliak contends, wouldn’t leave enough time in the rotation for the outfielders already on the roster.

I disagree.

How many times have we seen this team go into a season looking loaded on paper, only to have the house of cards tumble under the weight of the injury bug? 2015 is a prime example.

Holliday and Grichuk both missed significant chunks of the regular season. The 27 year-old Pham spent so long in the minors before getting the call thanks to health concerns his entire career. And we all remember the scare Piscotty put into us when he was flattened by Peter Bourjos as they collided in left-center field last September.

The point I’m trying to make: the Cardinals tendency to require a perfect slot in their plans for every acquisition is detrimental. The blueprint is going to go out the window during the season—it happens on an annual basis. So why bother prognosticating about where guys are going to ‘fit’ as though the entire puzzle isn’t going to be engulfed in flames by mid-May?

Unfortunately, the Cardinals’ conservative mindset has caused them to miss out on the marquee free-agent outfielders this offseason. But one who player remains on the market could be a nice addition to the St. Louis outfield.

Dexter Fowler offers a dynamic range of talents that would play in the Gateway City. He’s no Jason Heyward, but the former Cub offers a similar offensive skill-set. Last year with Chicago, Fowler swatted 17 home runs, stole 20 bases and drew 84 walks. Despite a career high in strikeouts (154), Fowler still posted a .346 OBP. Though that marked his lowest career number in a full season, it still ranked 26th in the NL.

Fowler traded batting average for a little extra pop in 2015. Whether that continues in 2016 or not, he would represent a solid option atop the Cardinals lineup. Matt Carpenter could slide down into a run-producing spot, thus lengthening the lineup in the middle.

There are two apparent downsides to a deal with Fowler: his defense isn’t great (I did say he was no Heyward), and he’d require the Cardinals to give up a draft pick—to the Cubs.

The Cardinals may be poised to part with a draft pick anyway as punishment for the hacking scandal, which adds another layer to a potential deal. But it’s February and Fowler remains unsigned. If the Cardinals kick the tires on him and find that he can be had on a short-term deal at a reasonable price? It might be worth their while to plan ahead, rather than resort to a state of desperation if plans go awry during the season.

 

 

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