Fowler opts to sign with Cubs, not O's

Fowler opts to sign with Cubs, not O's

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Dexter Fowler pulled off quite the shocker on Thursday afternoon, signing a one-year deal with the Cubs on the day he was expected to be in Florida getting ready to take his Orioles physical.

Word leaked out Tuesday night that the Orioles were finalizing a three-year, $33 million agreement with Fowler, a report that an industry source confirmed to MLB.com. O's center fielder Adam Jones said Wednesday that he had talked to Fowler and he was en route to Florida to join Baltimore's star-studded lineup.

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But that scenario never transpired, as Fowler instead walked onto the Cubs' field in Arizona with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein to announce he was staying with Chicago.

"We made a very competitive offer," said executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who learned Thursday that Fowler was no longer an option for Baltimore. "The issue was the opt-out [clause]. The Orioles have made it clear that that type of deal wouldn't really work for us. Based on that, it sounds to me like he wanted to return to Chicago."

Fowler, who turned down the Cubs' one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer, will return to Chicago at a significantly lower price. Fowler's deal will pay him $8 million this season, and he has a $9 million option for 2017, with a $5 million buyout if the option is declined.

Publicly both the Orioles and Fowler's camp said nothing was ever officially in place.

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"I don't know where that came from -- it didn't come from our camp," Fowler said. "It put me in a difficult situation. Theo, they made a good offer. You come back to what you know."

Said Duquette: "We made a very competitive offer. There was not an agreement to terms, because they kept insisting on an opt-out [clause]. I don't see, club ownership doesn't see the value in that type of arrangement to the Orioles. If we are going to guarantee a contract, it should be a contract."

Dan Duquette on opt-outs

The Orioles forfeited the 14th overall pick in this year's Draft when they signed Yovani Gallardo to a two-year, $22 million deal, and the club was wary of giving up their second Draft pick (No. 28 overall) for what could've been just a one-year deal had Fowler been given an opt-out clause.

"I don't see the advantage to the team of guaranteeing the money and allowing the player to have a free look at the market. Either you're going to play the market or you're going to commit to a team," Duquette said. "Frankly, I think it's better for our fans. Our fans want to know that the guys that are playing for the Orioles are playing for the Orioles, that they're committed to the team. And I believe that that's the right way to operate the team as a business."

Fowler confirmed to reporters in Arizona that he turned down a three-year offer elsewhere.

"My heart's here," he said. "I feel like the Cubs, they treated me with the utmost respect. With the offseason moves they made, you've got to go with what's comfortable."

Fowler was projected to play right field for the Orioles, who will now have some competition for that spot this spring among Nolan Reimold, Dariel Alvarez, Henry Urrutia, Rule 5 Draft pick Joey Rickard, Jimmy Paredes and Mark Trumbo.

"He liked their offer I guess," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I'd like to say I wasn't [stunned]. I'm not.

"No, I didn't feel like it was [done]. ... [Fowler was] somebody we were talking to, and from what I was made aware of, it doesn't surprise me [that he signed with the Cubs]."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.