MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

4 vets having #ASGWorthy years with contenders

Fowler, Desmond, Murphy, Trumbo each deserve spot in Midsummer Classic

4 vets having #ASGWorthy years with contenders

Dexter Fowler is sure to feel a rush of emotions when he steps into the National League All-Star clubhouse next month in San Diego. Hey, Dexter, wasn't that little wait worth it?

What's a little anxiety and uncertainty when the whole thing turns out this way? How many times do you have a chance to be part of something as special as what the Cubs are doing this season?

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for #ASGWorthy players

Fowler is a reminder that free agency's waters can be choppy. We hear about the players who are showered with riches the moment they hit the market.

We hear less about the players who find themselves waiting and wondering as the clock ticks down toward Spring Training.

This dynamic is going to make this All-Star Game especially sweet for a handful of players.

Let's take a look at four players -- three free-agent signings and a trade acquisition -- who've seen an offseason of change turn into a best-case scenario and probable All-Star selection:

1. Dexter Fowler, CF, Cubs
Stats:
.396 OBP, .883 OPS, 19 doubles, three triples, seven homers, six stolen bases.
Contract: One year, $13 million

Fowler is the best center fielder in the National League, and probably the best leadoff hitter. He's right in the middle of the conversation regarding the NL Most Valuable Player Award, with standout offensive numbers and very good defensive metrics.

Fowler's leadoff home run

This may not be how Fowler saw it working out when he was still unsigned at the start of Spring Training. And then, when he was on the verge of signing a three-year, $33 million deal with the Orioles, he agreed to what amounts to a one-year, $13 million deal with the Cubs.

Fowler's signing by the Cubs was surprising, because the team seemed to have so much outfield depth. Was there even regular playing time available for him?

Fowler collected three hits on Opening Day and has kept going. He not only is establishing his value for the coming offseason, he's also in the middle of one of the coolest stories in baseball as part of a team that is on a pace to win 112 games.

At 30, Fowler is positioned to make another run at free agency this offseason. That's a story for another day. At the moment, he could pass for the happiest man on earth.

2. Ian Desmond, CF, Rangers
Stats:
.310 batting average, .846 OPS, 18 doubles, nine homers, 12 stolen bases
Contract: One year, $8 million

Desmond had come off a tough year with the Nationals, hitting .233 and making 27 errors at shortstop. But he had a nice track record -- three NL Silver Slugger Awards and a .736 career OPS. At 30, he surely had productive seasons left.

Desmond was still unsigned in late February, so the Texas Rangers -- looking for outfield help -- offered a one-year contract. He signed the deal knowing he would be asked to play the outfield in the wake of Josh Hamilton's knee problem.

Statcast: Desmond's frozen rope

Desmond has been excellent from the start, looking completely comfortable. He has made 27 starts in left and 38 in center, where he's now the everyday guy. Desmond's offense has bounced back in a huge way, and he's an important part of a team that has opened up a 6 1/2-game lead in the American League West.

3. Daniel Murphy, 2B, Nationals
Stats: .359 batting average, 88 hits, .994 OPS
Contract: 3 years, $37.5 million

Murphy leads the NL in those three offensive categories, and his new team leads his old one -- the Mets --- by five games in the NL East. He was still on the market in early January, as teams assessed needs and budgets.

Must C: Murphy's two-run homer

Murphy's signing with the Nats was a surprise, since they'd previously been focused on free-agent outfielders. He was a .288 career hitting during seven seasons with the Mets, but he struggled at times defensively. Some teams considered Murphy more as a designated hitter than an infielder.

However, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was enthusiastic in his belief that there was almost no downside in signing Murphy. Rizzo said he was impressed not just by Murphy's offense, but also by his work ethic and commitment to being a caring teammate. As offseason signings go, there haven't been many that have worked out better.

4. Mark Trumbo, RF, Orioles
Stats:
.289 batting average, 20 home runs, 49 RBIs
Contract: One year, $9.15 million

This acquisition was a trade, not a free-agent signing, and it was done in early December, which tells you how much Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette believed Trumbo would have a bounce-back season.

Statcast: Trumbo's two home runs

Duquette gave up a highly regarded player -- catcher Steve Clevenger -- for a guy whose power and production had declined since a 34-homer, 100-RBI season for the Angels in 2013.

Trumbo's arrival in Baltimore seemed to signal that the club had given up on re-signing first baseman Chris Davis. But when Davis did return to Baltimore, his role changed.

Manager Buck Showalter has started Trumbo 31 times in right field and 31 times at DH. His real position is hitting fifth in a lineup that has helped get the O's into a first-place tie with the Red Sox in the American League East.

If Trumbo wins a home run title, all that stuff will be forgotten anyway.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.