The Cubs continue to hold out hope they can keep center fielder Dexter Fowler as they extended him a qualifying offer Friday that assures they’ll receive draft-pick compensation in the likely event he signs elsewhere as a free agent this winter.
Just ahead of next week’s general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer reiterated Friday the Cubs’ plans to talk with Fowler’s agent about a possible return as leadoff hitter for a team that won 97 games and reached the National League Championship Series.
“We had a great year with Dexter,” Hoyer said. “We really enjoyed getting to know him. He was the catalyst for our offense all year, and played good defense, and was good in the clubhouse.”
Many in the industry believe Fowler, 29, will command a contract in the neighborhood of four years, $60 million. Team sources leading up to the offseason suggested that would be a longer, bigger commitment than the team plans to make to that position.
Fowler was one 20 players who received the $15.8-million qualifying offer – the highest number of players receiving offers in the four years since the system was instituted. Players have a week to decide whether to accept the one-year, guaranteed offers or become free agents.
If the Cubs don’t bring back Fowler, they likely will look to lower-priced, shorter-term solutions for center field – possibly Nationals free agent Denard Span, a left-handed leadoff hitter coming off a season hampered by back and hip injuries.
– The Cubs claimed 2012 All-Star reliever Ryan Cook off waivers from the Boston Red Sox. Cook, 28, had a 2.09 ERA and 14 saves in 71 appearances during his All-Star season for Oakland. After being slowed by injuries in 2014, the right-hander appeared in only nine big-league games for the Athletics and Red Sox in 2015 (18 earned runs, seven walks in 8 2/3 innings).
–The Cubs lost two more ranking members of their player development staff, with special player development assistant Anthony Iapoce hired away by the Rangers to be their big-league hitting coach; and Class AAA pitching coach Mike Cather hired by the as the Marlins’ pitching coordinator. Earlier, Cubs pitching coordinator Derek Johnson was hired as the Brewers’ pitching coach; and scouting executive Tim Wilken was hired by the Diamondbacks.