Theo Epstein: Fowler salary won’t prevent Cubs from adding at deadline

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MESA, Ariz. – The difference in newly signed Dexter Fowler’s 2016 salary ($8 million) and that of Chris Coghlan ($4.8 million) – who was traded Thursday to help clear payroll space – boosts the Cubs’ projected Opening Day payroll to roughly $150 million, a franchise record.

Team president Theo Epstein credited ownership and increased sales and revenues with helping create additional budget flexibility for the baseball department through the offseason.

He also said the uptick in payroll with Thursday’s signing won’t affect the team’s ability to be active at the trading deadline.

“The way we were able to structure the contract, we were still able to preserve our in-season flexibility,” Epstein said of the one-year deal worth a guaranteed $13 million, including the $5 million buyout clause on a mutual option for 2017 ($9 million).

If anything, the pair of deals – which netted the Cubs 25-year-old right-hander Aaron Brooks from the A’s for Coghlan, has the potential to mitigate needs during the season.

“I feel with this series of moves today, by acquiring Aaron Brooks and Dexter Fowler, we made some headway in addressing two of our potential vulnerabilities as a club,” Epstein said. “So much of our starting pitching depth is tied up in our bullpen. It’s nice to have another starting option – one with options – who can, if necessary, bounce between AAA and the big leagues. And then Dexter’s experience in center field and just the quality defender and player that he is, it helps us address our outfield defense.”

Brooks, who was traded from Kansas City to the A’s in last July’s Ben Zobrist deal, has pitched in parts of the last two seasons for the Royals and A’s, going 3-5 with an 8.38 ERA in 15 big-league appearances, including 10 starts.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Brooks was a ninth-round draft pick of the Royals in 2011.

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