St. Louis Cardinals: Reflecting on signing Dexter Fowler
By Trevor Hooth
The St. Louis Cardinals big move to sign Dexter Fowler this off season was met with a lot of excitement. Fowler was signed in hopes that he would bring his .296 batting average and his solid defensive play to Busch Stadium.
When the Dexter Fowler signing happened, I met it with skepticism. I thought the St. Louis Cardinals front office overpaid for a player who would be a solid player, but not one who plays to the money he is given.
Fowler’s contract is for $82.5 million over five years. To put that in context, Wil Myers of the San Diego Padres signed an extension worth $83 million. Myers led Fowler handily in every offensive category except for batting average in 2016.
To me, it seemed as if the team overpaid for a player who really only had one breakout year. The experience in the post season would certainly be a benefit, but not to the tune of $16.5 million dollars a year.
Signing him was, at least in part, brought on by the pressure from fans who wanted something to happen with the team. They wanted the last piece of the puzzle to be set in place to push the St. Louis Cardinals back into the playoffs.
The amount of money given had to be affected by a competition between the Cubs and the Cardinals. Both were after getting Fowler into their outfield which more than likely drove up the price tag for the 31-year-old center fielder.
As the midway point of the season draws close, it looks like- to this point- my skepticism was just. Yes, there are four and a half more years to produce and prove he is worth the money, but his current .222 batting average is worth noting room for improvement.
Some of that can come down to just bad luck. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t land in the right spot. His exit velocity in 2016 was 87.2 MPH, while it stands at 85.9 MPH to this point in the 2017 campaign according to Baseball Savant. The 1.3 MPH difference is not any cause for concern. In fact, it is encouraging that he could turn it around if the ball bounces his way.
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More good news is that Fowler is on pace to get the same amount of RBIs he did last year, with fewer hits. So he is being more productive with runners on base. The bad news is that is only forty-eight RBIs.
He is playing better in the field this year though. In just under half of the chances he had last year, Fowler has not committed an error and carries a range factor of 2.23. This is comparably better than the four errors and 1.86 range factor from a year ago.
The one thing to love about Fowler’s contract is that it got him to St. Louis, where he has been active on social media. It is helpful to create buzz for the Cardinals when he is interacting the way he does on Twitter.
Unfortunately, the contract was not to tweet to the fans. His play to this point is dangerously close to having at least one year of wasted money. With plenty of time to improve, it is not a cause of great concern yet. But it is certainly on the way.
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The St. Louis Cardinals have more problems than the lack of production from their new center fielder. Between blown games and blow outs, it is impossible to put this on any one player. As the second half approaches, hopefully Fowler can lead change for the better. Only 3.5 games separate the Redbirds and a lead in the National League Central.