Cubs thank Fowler, receive comp pick

Leadoff hitter signs with rival Cardinals after rejecting qualifying offer

Cubs thank Fowler, receive comp pick

Dexter Fowler won't surprise his Cubs teammates by showing up in Mesa, Ariz., this spring. Instead, the next time they see him will likely be leading off for the Cardinals Opening Day on April 2 at Busch Stadium.

Fowler signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Cardinals on Friday, and he was introduced at a news conference in St. Louis. Coming off a World Series championship season with the Cubs and switching to play for their rivals will be "bittersweet," Fowler said.

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"Now they're the rival," Fowler said of the Cubs. "[I've] still got some boys over there -- we'll always be boys, we won the championship together. But when we get on the field, it's go time."

Fowler did leave a parting gift. Signing the outfielder will cost the Cardinals their first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2017 Draft because the Cubs made him a qualifying offer. The Cubs have the last selection in the first round as well as a compensation pick for Fowler's departure.

The Cubs had made Fowler a qualifying offer after the 2015 season and he rejected it, only to shock his teammates by re-signing and arrived during a workout in Mesa in late February.

"After last season, I was prepared to take it a long, long way," Fowler said about how long he'd wait to find the right deal.

The Cubs signed former Cardinal Jon Jay to a one-year contract to help mentor Albert Almora Jr. in center field, and a team official made a courtesy call to Fowler before that move.

The veteran helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908, providing the spark as the leadoff man. Manager Joe Maddon's message was, "You go, we go" before each at-bat.

"I still feel like if I go, we all go," Fowler said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.