The Toronto Blue Jays, knowing they may end up losing right fielder Jose Bautista this winter, are showing a strong interest in free agent center fielder Dexter Fowler, sources tell FanRag Sports.
Fowler became a free agent this winter after, like Bautista, turning down a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer. With his former team, the Chicago Cubs, announcing the signing of outfielder Jon Jay on Tuesday night, a return to the World Series champions appears unlikely.
Fowler would provide the Blue Jays with exactly what they need: a top-of-the-order, left-handed bat that will get on base, set the table for the still-formidable middle of the order, and play average defense; at the very least, he’d likely be a defensive upgrade over Bautista.
Fowler is coming off one of his finer seasons, in which he hit .276/.393/.447; his .840 OPS was the second-best of his career, while his 4.2 bWAR was easily the highest number he’s ever posted. In making his first ever All-Star team, Fowler also hit 13 home runs, drove in 48 runs, and stole 13 bases in 20 attempts. He was instrumental in helping the Cubs win their first World Series in over a century, including hitting a leadoff home run in Game 7.
The Cubs’ primary leadoff man and center fielder would likely slide over to one of the corners, as the Jays currently have one of the game’s best defensive outfielders in Kevin Pillar roving center field at the Rogers Centre.
While it seems the Jays have all but accepted Bautista’s departure, they are still interested in bringing back DH/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion.
With the Mets reaching a deal Tuesday to bring back outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce could be another potential option for the Jays to explore. Toronto nearly had a deal in place once already to bring Bruce in before that deal (which included the Angels) ultimately fell through. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reported that such interest had been re-heated earlier.
While his defense would be no better, and perhaps worse, than that provided by Bautista, Bruce would provide similar power as well. Despite his struggles post-trade to the Mets this season, he hit a combined 33 home runs and drove in 99 runs between Cincinnati and New York. He was also named an All-Star for the third time in his career, and first since 2012.
Bruce has one year and $13 million remaining on his contract after the Mets picked up his 2017 option shortly after the season.