In their latest move in an all-in push for 2015, the Chicago Cubs have acquired outfielder Dexter Fowler from the Houston Astros in exchange for pitcher Dan Straily and third baseman Luis Valbuena, according to the Astros' official Twitter account:
Fowler, 28, hit .276/.375/.399 with eight home runs and 35 RBI last season, his first with the Astros. The once-speedy outfielder set a career low with 11 stolen bases, and injury limited him to 116 games. Houston acquired Fowler in December 2013 from the Colorado Rockies, where he spent the first six seasons of his MLB career.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports weighed in on what acquiring Fowler means for the Cubs:
The Astros had been putting feelers out on Fowler for most of the offseason. Outfield is one of the deepest spots in their organization, and Fowler's departure will allow George Springer, a star in the making, to move to center field full time.
Adding Straily and Valbuena gives the Astros two players who can contribute immediately in needed spots. Straily, 26, struggled mightily last season after a strong 2013. The righty finished with a 6.75 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 52 innings split between Chicago and Oakland. With the Cubs, Straily's move to the bullpen proved disastrous, as he put up an 11.85 ERA in seven appearances.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Straily will compete for a starting spot in spring training, per Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:
Valbuena, 29, was a quietly solid infield starter in Chicago each of the last two seasons. He hit .249/.341/.435 with 16 home runs and 51 RBI, setting career highs across the board in nearly every power category. FanGraphs graded Valbuena, also a solid defender, as being worth 1.3 WAR more than Fowler in 2014. Over the two-season sample, Valbuena is a 4.8-win player and Fowler is at 3.5.
For the Cubs, the deal is more about opening up a spot for top prospect Kris Bryant, who should ascend to the majors sometime in 2015. Bryant, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, hit 43 home runs and 110 RBI last season, which he split between Double-A and Triple-A. Some consider him the best hitting prospect in the minor leagues.
Chicago also had a massive need in the outfield. Arismendy Alcantara, who has some power but struck out 93 times in 278 at-bats last season, was the Cubs' best projected option in center field before the Fowler trade. While Fowler is far from a perfect center fielder—FanGraphs rated him one of the worst in baseball last season—he'll bring a little more offensive consistency to a team making a push for a division title.
Given what each team gave up—two players who don't fit long- or short-term plans—this feels like a win-win deal for both sides.
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