Cardinals Trade Outfielder Dexter Fowler to Angels

photo: Dexter Fowler via Zoom (Brlan Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced this evening (Friday, February 4) that they have traded veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for a player-to-be-named-later or cash considerations.

Dexter Fowler

“We are extremely grateful for everything that Dexter has done for us over the past four years, both on the field and with his generous work in the community,” said Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.  “With the expectation that we will have plenty of competition in the outfield this season, and with Dexter’s approaching free agency, we felt that this deal made the most sense for all parties.”

The switch-hitting Fowler played in 389 games for the Cardinals from 2017-20, and had a career-best 19 home runs and 67 RBI during the 2019 season, as the Cardinals advanced to the National League Championship Series.

Fowler, 34, will be a free agent following the upcoming 2021 season.

With tonight’s trade announcement, the Cardinals 40-man Major League roster currently stands at 36, including outfielders Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson, Austin Dean, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas and Justin Williams.

Brian Walton’s take

From various media sources, we have learned that St. Louis is paying $12.75 million of Fowler’s $14.5 million salary for 2021. The Cardinals are also responsible for the last $2 MM of his original signing bonus to be paid in 2021. Note the outfielder had to waive his no-trade protection for the deal to take place.

For a mere $1.75 million in savings to St. Louis, the deal is clearly not a salary dump for them. Instead, it is intended to free up playing time in the outfield for the younger contenders.

One may assume that the starting outfield to open the season may be O’Neill, Bader and Carlson, with Thomas and Williams as reserves. The latter has no minor league options remaining, however Dean and Thomas do, giving the Cardinals some roster flexibility.

Carlson should be the regular in right, replacing Fowler, but the rookie was going to play somewhere every day, anyway. The real beneficiaries are O’Neill, Bader and the other outfield candidates, who will compete to grab what was expected to be Fowler’s 500-plus plate appearances.

This is a wise, forward-thinking move on the part of the Cardinals to use 2021 to sort out the young outfielders once and for all heading into what may be a more free-spending winter of 2021-2022.

And even if the youngsters falter, St. Louis could still look to add short-term help for the outfield at the trade deadline to give themselves a final two-month boost in 2021.

With the Angels, Fowler is reunited with his former manager with the Chicago Cubs, Joe Maddon. The latter is a Fowler proponent, having coined the phrase, “You go, we go,” to reinforce the outfielder’s table-setting role as the leadoff man for the 2016 World Champions.

Following that season, Fowler joined the Cardinals as a free agent on a five-year, $82.5 million deal that did not work out well overall. Early on, he clashed with then-manager Mike Matheny and suffered through a disastrous 2018 season (.180/.278/.298/.576) that turned many fans against him.

2020 was a tale of two seasons in one shortened package for Fowler, who is still a better player than many give him credit for.

Up until September 2, when Fowler went on the injured list, he had been solid offensively. In fact, he was one of only three Cardinals with an OPS+ over 100 (league average), with his 124 mark trailing Paul Goldschmidt (151) and Brad Miller (128). At that point, Fowler was slashing .279/.349/.485/.834 with four home runs and 14 RBI. The switch-hitter reached base safely in 19 of his 23 games while co-leading the Cardinals in home runs and ranking second in RBI at the time.

While putting up those numbers, Fowler had been trying to play through a stomach ailment, a recurrence of a problem he had even prior to his St. Louis years. He had tried different medications but did not get hoped for relief, so had to switch to a drug that would weaken his immune system. As a precaution, he was placed on the COVID-related IL

Upon his return, Fowler scuffled through his final 11 games of both 2020 and his time as a Cardinal.

From September 21 through the end of the regular season, on the 27th, Fowler went 2-for-22 (.091) in the eight games. In the Wild Card Series, he was only slightly better as he batted .286 (4-for-14) with no walks and two RBI as the Cardinals were defeated in three games. The Game 3 loss to San Diego ended up being his final contest with St. Louis.

All the best to Fowler as he begins the newest chapter of his career.

For more

To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.

Weigh in!

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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