Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Dexter Fowler May be Available to Royals in a Trade

According to a report from Rockies beat writer Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the Royals have been talking to the Rockies about sending some bullpen help to Colorado, and the Rockies’ best trade chip, Dexter Fowler, could be a fit in Kansas City.

The Royals, of course, have been rumored to be interested in adding a bat to their outfield corps, and bringing Fowler into the fold could be very beneficial to an offense that was among the worst in the league last season.

Fowler is coming off an injury-riddled season in which he posted a line of .263/.369/.407, which was good enough for an OPS+ of 102 in 492 plate appearances. He’s a 27 year old centerfielder with excellent speed to complement a very strong offensive skillset. Fowler’s career walk rate is 12.3%, which is outstanding. His contact skills are above average. His career ISO is .154, which is probably higher than one would expect from a speedy centerfielder, but when you remember that Fowler has played half of his career games at Coors Field, it does make sense.

Speaking of Coors Field: Fowler’s career home/road splits have sent up red flags in the eyes of some fans and analysts.

In 1,344 plate appearances in the thin air in Denver, Fowler has an OPS of .880.

In 1,291 plate appearances away from his home stadium, Fowler has an OPS of .694.

The significant gap in that split is absolutely cause for concern, at least on its face. Coors Field is almost certainly the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the major leagues, and one could postulate that Fowler’s numbers would plummet if he were pulled away from that kind of environment. However, if we dig a little bit deeper, we can possibly find reasons to calm those fears.

The Rockies play in an extremely hitter-friendly stadium. There is no arguing this fact. But, the Rockies also play in the NL West, which is home to teams with some extremely pitcher-friendly stadiums. The Padres, Giants, and Dodgers all play in parks that frequently are among the bottom of the league in park factors, meaning their home stadiums are very difficult to score runs in. Fowler and the rest of the Rockies play 81 games in Colorado, but they also play around 30 games between San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Here are Fowler’s career numbers in those stadiums:

Petco Park (San Diego): 147 PA, .214/.322/.349

AT&T Park (San Francisco): 126 PA, .189/.306/.245

Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles): 168 PA, .266/.327/.338

Those numbers are obviously a huge step down from his statistics in Coors Field. Fowler’s ability to draw walks has allowed him to still post on-base percentages that are at least respectable, but those three stadiums clearly sap his power significantly. This is entirely predictable, of course, but it’s something that fans may not consider when just glancing at a player’s home/road splits.

The other side of this speculated trade equation is on the Royals’ end. Despite a historical reputation as a pitcher’s park, Kauffman Stadium is more of a hitter-friendly environment. While home runs are suppressed at the K, the spacious outfield makes hitting doubles and triples easier than other stadiums, which has typically boosted it to an above average ranking in park factors. Players who hit line drives tend to do well in this stadium because the gaps in left-center and right-center make it difficult for most outfielders to chase down hard-hit balls before they roll to the fence. Players with speed can also have success since they are able to take extra bases because of the huge power alleys.

It just so happens that Fowler hits a lot of line drives, and is really fast.

Since 2010, Fowler’s line drive percentage of 23.4 is tied for the 20th best rate in the majors among 287 qualified hitters. Fowler also has 83 career stolen bases and has been worth 17.1 baserunning runs above average in his career.

Sure, Fowler may not hit double-digit home runs in Kauffman Stadium every season. But I do think that he could turn in 35-40 extra base hits per year fairly easily. And unlike the NL West, the stadiums in the AL Central are all relatively neutral run-scoring environments, with most parks usually in the upper half of the park factors rankings.

Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Granted, there are some drawbacks to acquiring Fowler. The defensive metrics are not fond of his work, as he has a UZR of -40.7 in his career to go along with -24 DRS. This seems counterintuitive because of Fowler’s speed, but for whatever reason, these rating systems show him in a very poor light. There are some reports that Fowler’s defense is much better than what the numbers say, so that information should be presented. The Royals already have an excellent defender in center field, but there are merits to an argument of shifting Cain to right field to help save his legs a bit more. That argument, however, leads to the other question mark regarding Fowler: his health. Fowler has played in more than 135 games in a season just once in his career, in 2012. That statistic is slightly misleading, though, as he’s played between 119 and 135 games in every other season since his 13-game debut season in 2008. Still, having two somewhat injury-prone outfielders can be a risk, especially since Fowler is owed over $7 million in 2014.

The final piece to this puzzle is the cost in a trade. As mentioned, the Rockies are looking for relief pitchers, and the Royals can certainly assist in that department. Specifically, the Rockies have been interested in Wade Davis for some time now, going back to his days in Tampa Bay. Now I might be one of the only few people who think Davis could still be a capable starter, but a flyball pitcher like him in Coors Field seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Maybe I’m crazy. But, if the Rockies are wanting to take him, more power to them, I suppose. I’m guessing it would take more than just a reliever to acquire Fowler, but because of his injury history, the cost may not be quite as high.

Dayton Moore has had some luck in dealing with Colorado. He was able to dump Jonathan Sanchez and turn him into Jeremy Guthrie. He also acquired Felipe Paulino for cash from the Rockies. Obviously trading for Fowler is just a whisper of a rumor at this point, but it certainly seems to be a move that would go along with what the Royals are hoping to accomplish this offseason. Fowler may not be an All Star-type of hitter away from Coors Field, but his offense would fit in perfectly near the top of the lineup, and provide the Royals with more of the run-scoring opportunities they so desperately need.

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  • unclejesse40

    I like the thought of having a guy at the top of the lineup that can hit doubles and take walks, basically a guy that gets on base to have Billy Butler hit home. Fowler, Gordon, Hosmer, Butler, Sal, Moose, Cain, Bonifacio, Lough/Maxwell, Escobar wouldnt be to bad of a lineup.

    • Hunter Samuels

      I’m not sure MLB will let the Royals play with 10 batters…haha. I agree with the idea, though. Moore would finally have a speedy centerfielder at the top of the lineup who actually belongs at the top of a lineup.

      • unclejesse40

        I really didnt do that did I? Yep was thinking back to last year and just threw Fowler into the mix without taking the RF guys out. My bad, but still i would like that lineup better than a lot of the ones we ran out last year.

    • cardsfanatik

      To have Butler hit a HR? What all 15 times? Come on man, BB is a doubles hitter, and should be traded this year.

      • unclejesse40

        So you think that if Butler hits a double and Fowler is on first he’s not going to score? Doesn’t always take a homer. Play the stadium you have.

        • cardsfanatik

          First off, I’m not trying to pick a fight, but I am a realist. Billy Butler is starting to get expensive, for what he brings to the “overall” picture in Kansas City. If he hit like David Ortiz, I could see keeping him as long as you can, but he does NOT hit like Ortiz. Fact of the matter, all he does is hit, and he doesn’t do that ALL the time. They made Butler the “Face” of the franchise at a very young age. He produces okay, but if your going to pay a man a large chunk of your ML salary, he needs to hit better than .289 with 15 HR’s and 82 RBI’s. And lets face it, he’s not “that expensive” this year, but next year he will be making around what, 11 million? With a payroll of 85 million, split up between 25 guys, that’s to much to pay for that kind of production. Everyone knows it, Billy Butler is a luxury item. An item that teams with more payroll can afford. The Royal’s need more production from that amount of money. I’m not saying “give” him away, because he is still a VERY valuable piece. But that salary could go a long way to affording a much more productive bat. One that can hit, as well as play a position on the field. I’ll bet Curtis Granderson could be signed for around 15-17 million a year, over 3 years. He as well can hit doubles, as well as triples, and HR’s, can play RF, and can steal bases. If you had to choose between the two, you would pick Butler? I wouldn’t, and if you pick Butler, its not from a business standpoint, but more of a loyalty standpoint, which doesn’t make sense in “the grand scheme” of things.

  • Marcus Meade

    Fowler is the perfect trade target for the Royals. If they give up something like Crow and Collins or Davis and Crow or Davis and Collins, that’s a fantastic move. They might also consider giving up Hochevar as part of that deal since his arbitration number is going to be north of $5 million.

    • unclejesse40

      Is it possible to give up Davis and Crow for Fowler and then give up Hoch and Collins for Porcello? If we did that this off season I would be pretty happy going into next year.

      • Dave Lowe

        Hmm…can we replace 4 relievers? I guess that would leave us with:
        Will Smith

        I like the first 3 a lot, but it gets shaky after that.

  • cardsfanatik

    Why do you all want to trade from a position of strength, to make further health question marks? Don’t trade just to trade, if your going to trade, do something that makes some sense. Trade part of that package, along with Butler to Seattle for Seager. Then sign a FA bat for RF. Beltran is said to want to win. Well, if you add Seager at second, or third should Moose tank again (which I think he will), and with Beltran in RF or DH, now that BB is not blocking that spot, that is a line up. Dextor Fowler is just a means to free up salary from the bullpen, by adding an overpriced oft-injured outfielder to the mix. Some of you that like this will probably get your way, because Moore is an idiot.

    • unclejesse40

      and you really think Beltran is going to sign here when the Yankees are calling with that hitter friendly park when he is trying to pad his stats for the HOF? Pardon me for trying to be a realist and not think about things that have little chance of happening. If Beltran signs here I will gladly eat my words, but I see little chance of that happening.

      • cardsfanatik

        Your probably right, but relying on the same broken offense that did’nt get the job done last year, is reckless and stupid. Which sadly has become what I expect from Dayton Moore. I totally agree with you that signing Beltran is a longshot, and actually prefer a Granderson signing, but don’t see that happening either. Unfortunately, it has become clear, that the Royal’s will NOT do what is necessary to take that proverbial “next step” while other teams see the urgency and move forward. Now if they go into the winter meetings, and do something drastic, I will be the first one to admit I was wrong, but a Dextor “strikeout” Fowler is not the answer either. Vargas and Fowler, as a fan, would you LOVE that offseason?

        • Dave Lowe

          I hate the Vargas move, only because Vargas is being sold as a #2 SP. That’s awful…he’s a #4 on a decent team, at best. Will Vargas eat innings? Yes, but you want your #2 to do more than eat innings at league average ERA or worse.

          I would love the Fowler move simply because of what we would be giving up: Wade Davis and another reliever. We have a position of strength in RPs, and even if we give up 2 of our good relievers, we are still stacked.

          Fowler is a potential star, entering his prime. He instantly boosts the team’s OBP…he would trail only Billy Butler on the team in OBP. I believe Fowler would put up numbers very comparable to Alex Gordon in 2011-2013…would you take that for relievers?

          • cardsfanatik

            For the right relievers I would. But if we trade Collins and Crow BEFORE we trade Hochevar and Davis, then Moore is once again blowing smoke up our tail pipes about how “payroll is tight” Glass has pocketed around 10 million in profit off of this team over the last number of years. Now to turn around when they are this close and say “Payroll will be around 85 million” and not go out and sign what it takes to WIN NOW, is preposterous. Not to mention a complete slap in the face to what has been an all to patient fan base. Do I like Fowler, meh, he’s ok. Will I be spending my money at the K this year if Vargas and Fowler are Dayton’s only two moves of the off-season, NO, definitely not. So if your asking would I give up Hochevar OR Davis for him, the answer is yes, Would I give up Collins AND Crow for him, most definitely NOT.

          • Dave Lowe

            GMDM was quoted as considering Hochevar for a SP during a radio interview, so if Hoch is being shopped it is as a starter or a reliever.

            Obviously he justifies his salary as an SP, but not really as an RP. Will be interesting to see if Hoch is still a Royal when April rolls around, and if so, whether he is an SP or an RP.

    • Dave Lowe

      Fowler is 10 years younger than Beltran, and in his prime, and much cheaper. I’m rolling with Fowler, despite his injury history. Beltran has had injury issues too, and he’s getting older, and he would require a 3 year contract.

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    If Beltran signs elsewhere (which I’m guessing he will), this will probably be Moore’s big move. Trading Hoch and/or Davis for Fowler isn’t a bad move if you think Fowler can stay healthy. He gives us a better lead off option and would allow Gordon to shift down in the lineup which would hopefully boost his production numbers. Once again, it’s not a great move or anything that will win us a pennant but it could be a marginal improvement. And that seems to be what Moore mainly deals in.

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