Washington Nationals Free Agent Target: Dexter Fowler


Could the Nats find their leadoff hitter and center fielder for 2016 in Dexter Fowler?

One of the needs that the Washington Nationals have tried to address this offseason is by adding an outfielder. While they do have Michael Taylor, the Nats could still use a veteran in that role as Taylor continues to develop. Even though the outfield market has been quiet other than the Jason Heyward signing by the Cubs, one name I think the Nats should consider is a former Cub, Dexter Fowler.

Last offseason, the Cubs acquired Fowler in a trade from the Houston Astros for Luis Valbuena and would cost the Nats their first round pick in this year’s draft since Fowler rejected the qualifying offer. In 156 games in 2015, the 29-year-old switch hitter had a slash line of .250/.346/.411with 17 home runs, 46 RBI’s, had 102 runs, and stole 20 bases. His 17 home runs were a career-high, but Fowler is known for being a guy who can get on base.

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Even though Fowler had a .346 on-base percentage this season, it was actually his lowest percentage in any season. His career-best .OBP occurred in 2012 with the Colorado Rockies. Also, he drew 84 walks, which was seventh in the National League.

While Fowler does have the good on-base number, the Nationals do want to add another left-handed bat into the lineup. Now, he is a switch hitter, but this past season, he only hit .228 from the left side of the plate (.326 as a right-hander). But, 13 of his 17 home runs occurred as a left-handed batter.

With the Nationals looking for a leadoff hitter, Fowler would be a good plan B if they don’t re-sign Denard Span. Last season, his 82 walks were the most of any leadoff hitter in the game and his 20 stolen bases were eighth in baseball and fourth in the National League among leadoff hitters.

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As far as Fowler’s defense goes in center field, his defensive runs saved were -12 this past season, according to Fangraphs. Even though that is a low number, that is an eight run improvement from his -20 runs saved he had with Houston. At center field, he has combined to make 12 errors the last three seasons.

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According to MLB Trade Rumors’ offseason free agent predictions, they have Fowler getting a four-year, $60 million deal. While that number does seem high, I think Fowler would be a good leadoff option for the Nats as he can work the count and steal bases. His defense is a negative, but his offense does bring the Nats more left-handed power. If Span doesn’t check out medically, keep an eye on Fowler being an option for the Nationals going forward.