The Chicago Cubs have re-signed outfielder Dexter Fowler, they announced on Thursday.
Fowler has signed a one-year, $8 million deal with a mutual option for 2017, according to Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune. The mutual option for next season is worth $9 million and comes with a $5 million buyout, guaranteeing Fowler $13 million total.
The move came as a shock to fans, writers, and others in the industry.
The Orioles had reportedly finalized a three-year, $33 million deal with Fowler on Feb. 23, but according to Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com, the team balked at completing the deal after Fowler demanded an opt-out after one season.
Fowler's agent, Casey Close, released a statement saying that his client had not reached a deal with the Orioles nor came close to one.
"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," Close said.
Orioles controversy aside, Fowler returns to a Cubs team that is now even more dangerous. Last season, they won 97 games. Then, they went out this offseason and virtually upgraded Chris Coghlan with Jason Heyward, while also signing Ben Zobrist (and John Lackey to their pitching staff).
Fowler's re-addition to the club provides them with a real solution at the top of the order. Prior to this re-signing, Heyward, Zobrist, or someone else may have been the Cubs' leadoff guy. Now, Fowler will be penciled in there, playing center field, almost daily.
Soon to be 30, Fowler had an extremely good season in 2015.
FanGraphs' says that he was worth 3.0 Wins Above Replacement after posting a .250/.346/.411 slash line with 17 home runs, 46 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases in 696 plate appearances.
The Cubs had offered Fowler a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer at the beginning of this offseason, but he turned it down to test to market. As the case with other free agents, he was tied to draft pick compensation. This likely served as a turnoff for many teams while he was looking for a new employer.
Now, while Fowler does get a possible second year on the deal, he is forced to take a guaranteed money pay cut, as Fowler is now guaranteed only $13 million.