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.
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).
"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."
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.
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.
"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."