Why Dexter Fowler turned down more money to re-sign with Cubs


Why Dexter Fowler turned down more money to re-sign with Cubs

MESA, Ariz. - Dexter Fowler is home.

Or, at least that's how he feels.

Fowler was an integral part of the Cubs' surprise run to the National League Championship Series last year, leading off and setting the table for a lineup that looked unstoppable before running into the New York Mets pitching staff.

But at season's end, Fowler became a free agent and rejected the Cubs' qualifying offer of $15.8 million, preferring to test the market.

When the week started, Fowler had not yet been signed even though every MLB team had already started camp.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Cubs fans!] 

When the baseball world woke up Thursday morning, the prevailing thought was Fowler was on his way to the Baltimore Orioles facility, since all reports indicated he had signed a three-year deal worth roughly $35 million guaranteed.

That's when the Cubs pulled off a series of moves, dealing Chris Coghlan to the Oakland A's and bringing Fowler back for the surprise of the spring.

Fowler confirmed he turned down a three-year guaranteed offer, leaving all that money on the table to ink a one-year pact with the Cubs for $13 million guaranteed ($8 million base salary in 2016 plus a $5 million buyout for a $9 million mutual 2017 option).

But why?

"My heart's here," Fowler said. "The Cubs, they treat me with the utmost respect. With the offseason moves they've made, you've gotta go with what's comfortable.

"My family loves it here. It was good to get back."

[MORE: Cubs players react to Fowler's surprise arrival: 'Theo got us all']

Fowler said he did not give the Orioles - or any other team - a verbal agreement and assured all the rumors did not come from his camp.

He admitted he was in a difficult situation, but "you come back to what you know."

"He decided to go for the fit over the money," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "We're extremely appreciative of that. It means a lot.

"I think it says a lot about his teammates, says a lot about Dexter, says a lot about the manager, the coaching staff, the whole ownership here, the culture that he'd want to come back." 

Theo Epstein and the Cubs gave Fowler a nice moment, letting him walk back onto the field when the entire team was gathered in a pre-workout scrum to the surprise of all his teammates.

Even 20 minutes later, Fowler still couldn't stop smiling.

"It's surreal," Fowler said. "It's like you're walking back to the house and you haven't been home in what feels like 10 years.

"It's definitely a blessing to be here. God works in mysterious ways."

Fowler drove down from his home in Las Vegas for a physical late Wednesday night and the Cubs pulled off the Coghlan deal as the physical results came back Thursday morning.

[MORE: Cubs deal Chris Coghlan to make room for Dexter Fowler signing]

Epstein and Fowler's agent - Casey Close - stayed in contact all winter, but a deal didn't come together until this late in the game. That obviously caused a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for Fowler's camp.

How did he keep his sanity through the offseason?

"Faith," Fowler said. "You've done all you can do on the field. There's nothing else you can do. It's just a matter of waiting and seeing what's out there.

"God works in mysterious ways. Came back to where your heart is."

Fowler also feels like there's some unfinished business with the Cubs.

[RELATED: Fowler reverses course, signs one-year deal with Cubs]

"We took those [NLCS] losses hard," he said. "Looking back, you see the Royals win the World Series and you think, 'That should have been us.'

"We definitely have a chance to do that. Hopefully we can do that this year."

Fowler knows Jason Heyward from their days growing up in the Atlanta area and played with Ben Zobrist in Japan. 

With the big-time acquistions in tow and now all the key pieces returning from last season, the Cubs feel like they're ready to roll.

"I do live in Vegas, so you see up there all the time - Cubs at 4:1 [odds]," Fowler said. "It's an exciting time to be a Cub."

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans


Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: