Angels acquire veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler and cash in deal with Cardinals
Angels manager Joe Maddon said recently he believed outfielder Jo Adell, the team’s most heralded prospect since Mike Trout, would benefit from additional development in the minor leagues. His new general manager took the assessment seriously and Thursday night swung a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler.
The Angels will also receive $12.75 million to offset the $14.5-million salary Fowler is owed this season, said a person familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to comment publicly. In exchange, the Angels will send cash or a player to be named to the Cardinals.
In essence, the Angels will pay less than $2 million to give Adell, an outfielder who figures to play a prominent role in the team’s future, time to refine his offensive and defensive approaches following a troubling debut season. And they’ll add a player that first-year general manager Perry Minasian said still has some upside despite an underwhelming performance in St. Louis.
Fowler, 34, played in 389 games for the Cardinals after signing a five-year contract ahead of the 2017 season. His best season came in 2019, when he had a career-best 19 home runs and 67 RBIs and helped the Cardinals reach the National League Championship Series. But Fowler finished his tenure there with a .233 average and .742 OPS. During four seasons, he was worth just 2.1 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.
Fowler, a switch hitter who will become a free agent at season’s end, had a particularly rough 2020 batting right-handed. He went two for 17 with no extra-base hits. He was better left-handed, batting .260 with four home runs and 23 strikeouts in 73 at-bats. Minasian said Fowler has put in extra work this offseason.
“We think there’s a lot left in the tank,” Minasian said. “He had a down year last year. I think he’d be the first one to tell you that.”
Fowler had a full no-trade clause built into his contract. But getting a chance to reunite with Maddon — Fowler played for the Chicago Cubs during Maddon’s first two years managing them, including a World Series championship in 2016 — was so appealing that Fowler didn’t hesitate to waive it.
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“I think he really enjoyed his time with Joe,” Minasian said. “I think it says a lot about Joe, and how good of a manager he is and how good of a communicator he is.”
Affection for Maddon figured into two previous moves Minasian executed this winter — the signing of free agent pitcher José Quintana and a swap for fellow starter Alex Cobb. They played for Maddon in Chicago and Tampa Bay, respectively.
It wasn’t a coincidence they jumped at a chance to join their former skipper.
“I just think he has a great way about him,” Minasian said. “A great way of communicating, I think he has a great way of motivating. And I think he’s real. He’s authentic. … I’ve known him a short time. It’s been three months. Talking to him every other day, I feel like I’ve known him for 15 years, so he’s one of those people that can connect. And I think that’s what makes him so special and so good at what he does.”
Fowler, a 14th-round pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2004, debuted in 2008. He has participated in the playoffs five times — experience Minasian touted. Maddon credited Fowler, who batted leadoff in Chicago, for sparking the Cubs offense on their way to their World Series title. “You go, we go” was Maddon’s famous phrase for Fowler.
Whether he leads off for the Angels remains to be seen. What is clear is that Fowler will primarily start in right field and take pressure off Adell, who will get another chance to join the major league team down the line.
“There are a lot of young players that have struggled their first time at the major league level,” Minasian said of Adell, who batted .161 and was charged three errors in 38 games last season. “Go back to guys like Javy Baez. His first taste of the major leagues probably didn’t go as well as he would hope it went. Joey Gallo was another one that might have struggled out of the gate but obviously those two players are outstanding players. We feel really good about Jo. We think Jo’s gonna have an outstanding career. And we feel like at some point this year, he’s going to impact this club.”
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