The Chicago Cubs on Monday acquired former Colorado Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler from the Houston Astros in exchange for starting pitcher Dan Straily and infielder Luis Valbuena, according to an official team announcement.
The deal marks the second time Fowler has been traded in a little more than a year. Fowler, 28, was shipped to Houston in December 2013 in a trade that sent Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes to Colorado. That deal was heavily scrutinized from the Rockies' perspective here and basically everywhere else. Most of that had to do with former Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd publicly tearing Fowler to shreds a week or so before the trade went through, but it was also widely believed that the club received horrendous value in return for their starting center fielder.
Considering what the Cubs gave up for Fowler, we were wrong. All kinds of wrong.
Exhibit(s) A: Straily and Lyles
Lyles is two years younger than Straily and owns better numbers in the categories that help us predict better performance going forward. He's also the one who is seemingly trending in the right direction, given his better-than-expected season in a difficult environment. Given what we know about both pitchers, Lyles gets the nod.
Exhibit(s) B: Valbuena and Barnes
Neither player has been great thus far in their careers, but Valbuena has been significantly better over the last two seasons than he was prior to that. Barnes was marginally better in 2014 than he was during the previous season, when he received 445 plate appearances and posted a meager 75 wRC+. However, he doesn't appear to have the capability of being a starter unlike Valbuena, who is a good defender at third base and is better at the plate. Valbuena gets a fairly significant edge here although Barnes, like Lyles, is trending in the right direction.
It's kind of hard to say that one of these returns is better than the other. Gun to my head, I'd say the Cubs got a slightly better return for Fowler than the Rockies did, but that also comes after a season in which Fowler proved he could maintain a strong on-base percentage without the benefit of Coors Field. The overwhelming conclusion we should take from both deals is that Fowler, a player with a .366 career OBP, is at least moderately underrated among executives around the league. But judging by what we saw Monday, it's hard to agree with our initial stance that Dan O'Dowd and company were fleeced by the Astros in that December 2013 deal.
Good thing we have plenty of other things to roast the old regime about.