Less than two days after the Orioles reportedly agreed to terms on a three-year contract with Dexter Fowler, the veteran outfielder surprisingly re-signed with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
It was believed that the Orioles had a $35 million agreement with the 29-year-old outfielder, but multiple outlets have reported that Fowler wanted an opt-out after the first year and the Orioles balked at giving up the 28th overall pick of the June draft for potentially only one season of service. The Cubs announced a one-year deal for a reported $8 million salary for 2016 with a $9 million mutual option for 2017 that includes a $5 million buyout, giving Fowler $13 million guaranteed for his return to Chicago.
Fowler told reporters in Arizona that he never agreed to a deal with Baltimore despite local and national reporters saying an agreement was in place on Tuesday night. Adam Jones was even quoted in Sarasota on Wednesday saying that he had communicated with Fowler and the switch-hitting outfielder had said he was excited to join the Orioles.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in Sarasota that there was not an agreement due to Fowler insisting on an opt-out clause. On Thursday, Fowler said his heart was with Chicago and he is taking less guaranteed money to stay there.
Fowler confirms left 3-year guarantee on table in rejecting O's. Says "no clue" where reports of his agreement came from. Says never agreed.
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) February 25, 2016
Fowler’s agent, Casey Close, issued a statement Tuesday night in which he blasted both the Orioles and media for “recklessly spreading rumors” about an agreement. However, it remains unclear why Close elected to remain silent for such a long period of time and didn’t simply reach out to reporters or use social media to declare the reports as premature or completely false on Tuesday night.
Casey Close Statement Regarding Dexter Fowler: pic.twitter.com/z4wQ8q312U
— Excel Sports (@excelsm) February 25, 2016
Of course, the news of Fowler’s signing came less than 24 hours after the Orioles restructured a deal with starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo after concerns arose about his physical. That has understandably led some to believe the delay could have facilitated Fowler’s return to the Cubs, who won 97 games and advanced to the NL Championship Series last year.
While it’s understandable not being keen on the idea of forfeiting a pick for what could be a one-year deal, the Orioles are once again left with a shaky corner outfield situation and few options remaining this late in February. And they will not have Fowler’s .363 career on-base percentage at the top of the lineup.