St. Louis Cardinals Rumors: Dexter Fowler or Carlos Gomez?

Nov 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) celebrates with first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) after hitting a solo home run against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning in game seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) celebrates with first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) after hitting a solo home run against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning in game seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals have been rumored to have interest in free agent Dexter Fowler and/or Carlos Gomez but which is the best option?

The St. Louis Cardinals made it well-known going into the offseason that they were going to seek a new center fielder and move Randal Grichuk to left field to replace the exiting Matt Holliday.  This started a great deal of rumors and has much of the Twittersphere scratching heads and suggesting names.

Two center field names have essentially bubbled to the top: Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gomez.  These two are by no means the only names circulating for the St. Louis Cardinals outfield in 2017 but let us entertain the thought that they are the only ones and compare them.

Let us begin with the flashy pick of these two– Fowler.  Fowler is a great center fielder and made a real name for himself in the postseason of 2016.  But wait… prior to 2016, the Chicago Cubs were prepared to let Fowler walk away and it wasn’t until the last weeks prior to 2016 that he inked a deal to “return” to the Cubs.  I’m sure both parties are pleased with this decision now.

Fowler, a fourteenth-round pick by the Rockies of the 2004 draft, turned thirty at the start of the 2016 season.  In 2015 he slashed .250/.346/.411 and didn’t appear to play into the Cubs’ plans for world domination.  Brought back nevertheless, Fowler made 2016 his mistress and slashed .276/.393/.447.  Here’s a look at his career offensive numbers:

2016 ★30CHCNL12545684126257134813479124.276.393.447.840
9 Yrs106437346231001195727833912756554974.268.366.422.788
COL (6 yrs)667224837660612053402108341325588.270.365.423.788
CHC (2 yrs)2811052186275541530943311163278.261.367.427.794
HOU (1 yr)1164346112021483511466108.276.375.399.774

While not a massive power threat at a career .422 SLG, Fowler is able to generate offense with his fair number of doubles and home runs.  Of sure interest to the St. Louis Cardinals is his stolen base numbers.  2016 showed that he can run on the bags and this is needed on what has been a slowed-foot Cardinals team.

Changing gears, Carlos Gomez could be the reason the St. Louis Cardinals do not chase down Fowler.  Gomez has had his share of down-to-up luck similar to Fowler.  To this end, Gomez, after 5+ seasons with Milwaukee, was shipped off to Houston.  He was shipped away as the Brewers felt he was fading.  Gomez lived up to this idea and found himself struggling in Houston.

Eventually released, Gomez rolled around in obscurity for a brief period.  During this time, the St. Louis Cardinals were rumored to have kicked the tires on him. This was during the 2016 campaign.  The Cardinals decided against a Gomez pick at that time and the Rangers ultimately snatched him.  Gomez rode to the postseason with the Rangers and even found his playing ways again.

Here’s a look at Gomez, signed as an amateur free agent first in 2002, and his up-and-down career:

2013 ★27MILNL147536801522710247340737146.284.338.506.843
2014 ★28MILNL148574951633442373341247141.284.356.477.833
10 Yrs1204391057210031953811645323965256999.257.312.415.727
MIL (6 yrs)6972333364622122258728815236159591.267.325.452.777
MIN (2 yrs)29089213022139121087471847214.248.293.352.645
HOU (2 yrs)126444469825194223529131.221.277.342.619
TEX (1 yr)33116183360824531336.284.362.543.905
NYM (1 yr)58125142930212123827.232.288.304.592

Gomez, like Fowler, will be thirty-one in the 2017 season.  Gomez, unlike Fowler, carries slightly weaker numbers but one year additional experience.

Defensively, Fowler carried a 1.0 UZR in 2016 at center field.  Gomez, in fashion with his weaker offense, carried a 0.5 UZR in 2016 at center field.  For reference, Grichuk carried a -0.9 UZR so either would be a marked improvement.

Before moving forward, let us compare the postseason statistics from this past year for Fowler and Gomez.  Fowler has appeared in postseason play in three seasons (once with Colorado and twice with Chicago) and slashed .133/.235/.200 in the 2016 NLDS, .333/.333/.556 in the 2016 NLCS, and .233/.258/.467 in the 2016 World Series.

Gomez has appeared in four postseasons (one with Minnesota, one with Milwaukee, one with Houston, and one with Texas).  In 2016, in the limited exposure with Texas, he batted .154/.214/.154 in the ALDS.

So what makes them different and why should the St. Louis Cardinals care about one over the other?  Money makes the world go around and it completely differentiates these two (aside from the statistics above).  Gomez is a free agent free to any team.  Fowler is a free agent with a qualifying offer attached.

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In addition, Gomez was paid $9M in 2016 and is likely seeking a 2-3 year deal.  Fowler was paid $8M in 2016 and, having just turned down the $17M qualifying offer, is likely seeking a 3-5 year deal with a big purse.  Fowler will likely need $18M+ to land while Gomez could be had for $10-12M.

Price alone should not be a deciding factor.  To this point, picking up Fowler would mean forfeiting a draft pick.  I’m just not sure the St. Louis Cardinals would take this risk/loss with the penalties for the Astros hacking scandal yet to come. It is assumed that the loss of picks after 2017 could be a likely penalty so I’m not sure the Cardinals would be wise to forfeit picks this season.

Having said that, I’m not sure that Gomez is the best option either.  I personally like him and would really like to see him wearing the birds on the bat but there are other names out in the market too.  If I were to pick between these two then I would definitely suggest Gomez over Fowler for fewer years and then take a risk in the coming year’s free agent markets.

Next: Top 5 Holliday Moments

What do you think?  Until the Cardinals land a new center fielder- if at all- I will spend the next couple of posts examining and comparing the available names against Fowler who we can assume is the hottest name in this season’s free agent class for center fielders.  Check back and stay with us as we drive toward a selection!