The Cubs are acquiring outfielder Dexter Fowler from the Houston Astros.
In exchange for Fowler, the Astros will receive Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily.
Fowler, 28, posted a very typical .276/.375/.399 batting line with eight home runs, 21 doubles, and 11 stolen bases in his first season in Houston in 2014.
He has played primarily center field in the big leagues, but defensive metrics have never liked his defense and it’s possible he’ll move to a corner in Chicago.
The club already has a full-cast of outfielders including Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, Chris Denorfia and Arismendy Alcantara. Although Alcantara is just 23-years-old and struggled mightily in 2014. He may start the year in the minors with Fowler getting the first crack at the center field job.
Fowler is in his final season of arbitration eligibility and on Friday he filed for $10.8 million, with the Astros countering at $8.5 million. Fowler’s rising cost coupled with the presence of George Springer, Jake Marisnick, and recent acquisition Evan Gattis made him expendable in Houston.
Valbuena, 29, is coming off his best year in the big leagues where he posted a .776 OPS with 16 home runs and 33 doubles in 149 games. He’s a career .229/.313/.374 hitter who – prior to 2014 – had never played more than 108 games in a season.
He should compete with former top-prospect Matt Dominguez for the third base job. Dominguez has yet to hit at the big league level and Valbuena, a flawed player in his own right, could easily replace him at the hot corner for Houston.
Straily, 26, was acquired from the Athletics last year in the Jeff Samardzija deal and failed to impress in limited action with Chicago last season. He had a good minor league track record, but has yet to translate that success into the big leagues.
In Houston, Straily figures to serve as rotation depth and a potential long-man out of the club’s retooled bullpen. He has five years of control remaining before he’s eligible for free agency, so Houston will have plenty of time to find the right role for him.
In Chicago, Fowler amounts to a solid veteran presence in a very young lineup. He consistently gets on-base and should provide enough power and speed help solidify the top-half of the Cubs lineup in 2015.
He likely serves as a one-year placeholder with more prospects on the way and uber-prospect Kris Bryant often mentioned as a candidate to move to left field when he reaches the big leagues.
The Cubs acquisition of Jon Lester in December signaled that the club had sped up the rebuilding process and was ready to compete.
Adding Fowler allows for some of the prospects to get more seasoning while giving the big league club a solid shot in the arm for the upcoming season.