St. Louis Cardinals: Trading Dexter Fowler for Wade Davis makes sense
By Rob Chagdes
The St. Louis Cardinals should do everything they can to move on from Dexter Fowler this offseason. Perhaps the Colorado Rockies would consider a reunion with the outfielder in exchange for their high priced veteran closer Wade Davis.
Let’s take a trip back a few years, to the offseason of 2016. The departure of long time St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holiday was imminent, and the front office was reeling from the loss of Jason Heyward and the struggles of Randal Grichuk.
On December 9, 2016, the St. Louis Cardinals seemingly addressed these issues by signing Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million deal. Fowler was coming off a World Championship with the Cubs in a year where the outfielder was worth 4.1 WAR.
The signing was met with mixed reception. Some people loved the deal because of the fit and production history, while others were not sold on his talent, and were upset with the contract due to the dollars, length, and the inclusion of a no-trade clause.
Two years into the deal, things haven’t exactly worked out for Fowler or for the Cardinals. Dex has put up a 0.2 WAR while slashing .230/.328/.410 for the Redbirds. This past season was downright abhorrent, as he hit for a .180/.278/.298 line.
But St. Louis Cardinals fans historically can be extremely forgiving for poor performance. Former pitcher Jeff Weaver put up a 5.10 ERA in 2006 for the Cards in the regular season.
He was 2018 Dexter Fowler bad, but the difference is that Weaver turned it around in October. He allowed only nine runs in five playoff starts, earning three wins, one of which was the World Series clincher.
Looking back, do St. Louis Cardinals fans care at all about Weaver’s regular season struggles? If Fowler turns it around, the fans will undoubtedly love him the same way they forgave Weaver.
But as it stands today, the Fowler signing is a complete bust. Three more years remain on the contract with $49.5 million left as he heads into his age 33 season. Fowler ended his 2018 season in August when he went on the 60-day disabled list with a foot injury.
Most St. Louis Cardinals fans would rather see 23-year-old Tyler O’Neill in right field, assuming the Cardinals are unable or unwilling to secure the services of Bryce Harper or another big name free agent. This past season, O’Neil hit .254/.303/.500 with nine home runs and 23 RBI’s in only 130 at bats. Some fans wonder what the kid might do over a full season if given the opportunity.
The Redbirds also have the defensively painful yet offensively productive Jose Martinez to conceivably play in right field. Martinez hit .305/.364/.457 this past year with 17 home runs and 83 RBI’s. The 11-time World Champs have better options than Fowler at this point.
Last offseason, the Colorado Rockies signed reliable closer Wade Davis to a three-year, $52 million contract. Davis put up 43 saves in Colorado this past season, but saw his ERA balloon to 4.13, by far his highest since he moved to the bullpen in the 2014 season. The three-time All Star will enter his age 33 season as the closer in a talented Rockies bullpen.
The Rockies ‘pen is stacked with arms. Adam Ottavino is a free agent, but was straight up filthy for Colorado this past season. If Davis was gone, Ottavino could be re-signed and could close. Scott Oberg was another name that showed dominance in the final month of the 2018 season and could possibly be considered should Davis leave.
Additionally, former Cardinals closer “The Final Boss” Seunghwan Oh came over from Toronto and pitched well enough for the Rockies to likely pick up his club option for 2019, and lefty Chris Rusin showed enough to think he could be a valuable part of the bullpen this upcoming season.
In the Colorado outfield, stud Charlie Blackmon will remain in center field, and talented youngster David Dahl could play either corner – assuming he can stay healthy. There is an open spot in the outfield for Fowler.
Dexter was drafted by the Rockies, spending his first six seasons in Denver. He had success at the plate hitting .270/.365/.423 during this time in the high altitude. The Rockies would get a guy who would be highly motivated to re-establish himself, and one who is familiar with their ballpark. If Fowler regains his stroke, this could be a steal for the 2018 NL Wild Card winners.
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The Cardinals would get a veteran arm in the bullpen to go with young guns Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Daniel Poncedeleon and Austin Gomber. They would get Davis’ ability to get big outs and would not need to put him in a closer role.
Davis has just over $51 million remaining on the two years of his contract with a vesting option if he finishes 30 games in 2020. It’s likely he would not achieve that in St. Louis, so the Cardinals would have to add a young arm in the trade to balance things out. Colorado is always looking for pitching and St. Louis has lots of it. The loss would be worth it to move on from Fowler.
Fowler is owed almost $66 million over the next three years, meaning John Mozeliak would need to eat some of that cash to make this happen. The Cardinals have the money, and should be motivated to make this happen.
Dexter is a good guy who was just a bad fit for this team. He could be inspired to waive his no-trade clause for a new opportunity, and to return to where it all started for him. While fans wait for the Cardinals to make something happen this offseason, perhaps Mozeliak and Mike Girsch need to pick up the phone and have a conversation with Colorado GM Jeff Bridich and see what happens.