Signing Dexter Fowler Strengthens the Cardinals and Weakens the Cubs

The Cardinals are in an unfamiliar spot, which is chasing the World Champion Cubs. Adding Chicago's center fielder from last year will help fix a couple huge problems for St. Louis.

The 2016 season was very different than what the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans are normally used to. They missed the postseason for the first time in five years after fielding a flawed team that wasn't good defensively and relied too heavily on hitting home runs.

To make matters worse, they had to sit and watch the Chicago Cubs break their 108-year championship drought by erasing a 3-1 World Series deficit against the Cleveland Indians.

The first major step toward fixing this squad in advance of 2017 was signing outfielder Dexter Fowler, who reportedly agreed to a contract on Friday morning. Going from the Cubs to the Cardinals means St. Louis is weakening a bitter division rival, but this signing makes sense for a lot of reasons.

You Go, We Go

Manager Joe Maddon's euphemism to describe Fowler's lineup impact is simple, but obvious -- as Fowler performed well , so, too, did the Cubs offense.

Before the postseason, we highlighted some of Fowler's value to this Chicago. While they boasted one of the deepest lineups in baseball, it was their center fielder that was the engine making this team chug.

Through 551 plate appearances last year, he racked up an on-base percentage (OBP) of .393. That mark dropped to just .258 in October, but Fowler still provided plenty of big moments for his club, including the biggest of all to start a crucial World Series Game 7.

While it's hard to ignore other huge pieces of the lineup -- like NL MVP Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Fowler still posted an impressive set of numbers in comparison to those big boppers.

Name Games OBP wOBA wRC+ Runs Home Runs RBIs Steals
Fowler 125 .393 .367 129 84 13 48 13
Bryant 155 .385 .396 149 121 39 102 8
Rizzo 155 .385 .396 149 94 32 109 3

Lemme Lemme Upgrade Ya

Perhaps just as important as Fowler's offensive prowess is what he brings to the table defensively, which is something the Cardinals desperately need.

Using Fangraphs' defensive ratings, Fowler ranked as the 13th-best outfielder in baseball among 54 qualified players last year. By comparison, the Cardinals highest-rated defensive outfielder was Stephen Piscotty, who checked in at 23rd. His presence in center allows Piscotty and Randal Grichuk to remain in the corner spots.


While the Cardinals may have paid a hefty price to acquire Fowler, the deal makes sense on multiple fronts.

It will significantly upgrade a poor defensive unit, the offense gets a dependable bat at the top of the order (that .393 OBP ranked 11th in the game), and it weakens a prolific offense within the division. To compete with the Cubs for the NL Central in 2017, this is one of many steps the Cardinals had to take.