After being linked to the Blue Jays all offseason, it appears that Dexter Fowler is instead headed to the St.Louis Cardinals. Frank Cusumano of KSDKSports first reported that Fowler was headed to St.Louis to take a physical, and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports confirmed that a deal was in place. Fowler is expected to receive a major pay day, as Heyman hears that it is a 5 year contract, worth $80-90 million.
Fowler, 30, is coming off a 4.7 WAR season for the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. He boasted a .276 batting average to go along with 13 home runs in just 125 games. Most impressively, great plate discipline led to a .393 on-base percentage, which makes him one of the top leadoff hitters in all of baseball. By signing with the Cardinals, he should remain in centre field.
It's safe to say: Toronto's offseason plan is not going as expected. The Blue Jays appear to be in the market for a major addition to the lineup, but Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce limit the possibility of reuniting with Edwin Encarnacion. It appeared that Toronto would spend heavily on an outfielder, but the majority of top options are now signed in Fowler, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, and Josh Reddick.
Despite the hype, Fowler was not one of my offseason targets. There's little doubt that he is an above-average player, but an 80-90 million guarantee feels like an overpay. Fowler would have been a nice addition to Toronto's lineup, but for that price, there should be better value elsewhere.
The main question mark on Fowler is his defence. He was worth -32 runs from 2014-2015 in terms of defensive runs saved, and ultimate zone rating graded him around -24 runs. After an extensive history of grading out as a poor defender in centre, Fowler graded out around league average last season, which boosted his numbers in terms of Wins Above Replacement. His bat is certainly valuable at the top of a lineup, but it's tough to justify giving a huge contract to a player who is coming off the best season of his career.
Plan B for the Blue Jays could be Jose Bautista. Like Fowler, his plate discipline leads to a strong on-base percentage, and he will surely sign for a fraction of the cost. A trade for Curtis Granderson could also make some sense, or the Blue Jays could look for cheaper options such as Jarrod Dyson or Brandon Moss. Another option could be Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, though his contract and no-trade clause could complicate matters.