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.
The Chicago Cubs have agreed to sign outfielder Jason Heyward to an eight-year deal, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday afternoon.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Heyward will make $185 million over the course of his contract, good for an average annual value of $23 million, easily making him the highest paid position player of the offseason.
Heyward's deal includes two opt-outs, according to Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. Rosenthal reported that Heyman can opt-out after year three or year four of his deal if he exceeds certain plate appearance thresholds.
Heyward was pursued by plenty of teams throughout the offseason. The Cardinals, Cubs, and Nationals were named as the three finalists in his sweepstakes. According to media reports, Heyward turned down two $200+ million deals, presumably from St. Louis and Washington.
The addition of Heyward is huge for the Cubs. He will likely play center field in Chicago, alongside the likes of Kyle Schwarber in left and Jorge Soler in right. The Cubs' lineup is more balanced with the addition, as Heyward replaces Dexter Fowler, who was barely above-average in offensive value last year.
Heyward is just 26, having made his MLB debut at age-20. He had a solid offensive season last year, hitting .293/.359/.439 with 13 home runs and 60 RBIs in 610 plate appearances. He is also one of the best defenders in the league and thus was worth an astounding 6.0 fWAR last season.
Heyward was going to make a lot of money in his contract this offseason, but the most interesting aspect of the deal are his two opt-out clauses. While his contract breakdown is still unknown, the deal should be front-loaded, in case Heyward has a good enough first few seasons and opts-out.
Another interesting aspect of this deal is that Heyward reportedly took less money to sign with the Cubs over two other teams.
This could be for plenty of reasons, including the two opt-out clauses, but in recent years players (such as Jon Lester) have taken less money to sign with Chicago in order to help them break their World Series drought.
The Cubs' front office is doing everything in its power to try and bring the team to success.
Heyward is the third major free agent that Chicago signed this offseason. They agreed to terms with both Ben Zobrist and John Lackey already this offseason, to play second base and help in the rotation, respectively. They want to win; they want to win soon. By having such a big offseason, they showed this urgency.
Over the course of his career, Heyward has hit .268/.353/.431 with 97 home runs and 352 RBIs over 3,429 plate appearances. Between the Braves and Cardinals, Heyward has accumulated 27.8 career fWAR. Now, he heads to Chicago to try and go deep into the postseason and win the World Series.
Here are the two biggest news bits out of the South Side of Chicago, as the Cubs make moves at the Winter Meetings.
Cubs sign Ben Zobrist to a four-year, $56 million deal
Chicago signed infielder and outfielder Ben Zobrist to a four-year, $56 million deal, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported earlier this evening.
Zobrist was thought to be deciding between the Mets, Nationals, and Giants before he agreed to his next contract with the "mystery team" Cubs. At $14 million per season, the Cubs are paying for an above-average bat and extremely versatile player who can help in a variety of roles with the team.
The 34-year-old Zobrist hit .276/.359/.450 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs last season in 535 plate appearances with the Athletics and Royals. He has defensive experience at every position put pitcher and catcher. Zobrist's signing should open up the position player free agent market.
The signing of Zobrist to play second base led to the following move just minutes later.
Cubs trade Starlin Castro to Yankees for Adam Warren, PTBNL
The Yankees acquired second baseman Starlin Castro from the Cubs in exchange for pitcher Adam Warren and a player to be named later, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The deal has since been announced.
The player to be named later will be Brendan Ryan, according to media reports.
The 25-year-old Castro has been a part of the Cubs his entire career, but had been subject to trade rumors at the trade deadline into the Winter Meetings due to the team having plenty of talent all around the diamond.
Last season, Castro had somewhat of a down year, hitting .265/.296/.375 with 11 home runs and 69 RBIs in 578 plate appearances. He was much better in the second half, however, posting a .783 OPS (compared to a .603 OPS in the first half).
Castro is signed to an eight-year, $60.57 million deal that started in 2012 and runs through 2019. It includes a team option for 2020.
Castro will provide an immediate upgrade for the Yankees at second base, moving Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder to the bench.
The Chicago Cubs have agreed to sign John Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Lackey, 37, is coming off quite possibly the best season of his career. Last year, he went 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA (3.57 FIP; 3.77 xFIP) in 218 innings pitched with the St. Louis Cardinals.
While he was not an elite free agent starting pitcher due to his age, Lackey was one of the better options on the market and fits the Cubs' needs for a starter quite well. Outside of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, the Cubs did not have a solid third option in their rotation last year.
Lackey cannot be expected to have the same results he had last year. However, even at his career average 3.92 ERA, he will be an upgrade as the No. 3 starter in their staff.
With the signing of Lackey, the Cubs will lose their first round draft pick. He had received and declined a qualifying offer from St. Louis at the beginning of the offseason.
At $16 million per season, Lackey seems like a good bargain, even though he is 37-years-old. In a year when J.A. Happ gets $12 million per year, just $4 million more for John Lackey seems like a solid price for Chicago. Though he did cost them a draft pick, the signing, as of now seems worth it.
Major League Baseball organizations had until today at 5 PM eastern to offer their impending free agents qualifying offers.
A qualifying offer is a one-year, $15.8 million deal, which is the average of the top 125 one-year salaries in the game. Any impending free agent can be offered a qualifying offer, however, that player must have spent the entire season with the organization that is offering them the deal (i.e. traded players like Johnny Cueto cannot be offered a qualifying offer).
If the player accepts the qualifying offer, they are basically re-signing with their former club to a one-year, $15.8 million deal.
If the player rejects the qualifying offer, they become a free agent as scheduled. However, if they sign with a different team, then their original team (the team they are coming from) will receive an extra first round draft pick at the end of the first round. The team that signs the player loses their first round pick, as long as they are not within the top 10 in the draft order (which in that case, they would lose their second round pick).
In the three-year history of the qualifying offer, no player has accepted the deal.
An MLB-record 20 players were offered a qualifying offer today. They have one week to make a decision whether they want to accept or decline the deal: