The Cardinals may soon have a new center fielder and leadoff hitter.
Free agent Dexter Fowler, most recently a member of the rival Cubs, is believed to be nearing a contract agreement with the Cardinals. Things are so close to being done that he'll reportedly be in St. Louis for a physical Friday.
Last offseason Fowler reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with the Orioles before backing away because Baltimore refused to give him an opt-out clause. Fowler eventually re-signed with the Cubs on a one-year contract and helped them win the the World Series.
The Cardinals have played Randal Grichuk in center field for most of the last two seasons, and while he deserves an A for effort, Grichuk is a corner outfielder all the way. Fowler will be a big upgrade defensively, and he'll also allow the team to slide Matt Carpenter down in the lineup, into a more traditional run producing spot.
Fowler, 31 in March, hit .276/.393/.447 (126 OPS+) with 13 home runs and 13 steals in 2016.
The Cardinals will surrender their first-round pick, No. 19 overall, if they sign Fowler, because he rejected a qualifying offer from the Cubs. Chicago will gain a supplemental first-round pick once another team signs Fowler.
The Cubs signed Jon Jay to a one-year contract earlier this offseason. He figures to platoon in center field with young Albert Almora.