The Blue Jays are discussing a possible trade with the Astros for Dexter Fowler, according to FOX Sports' Jon Morosi. The Houston outfielder posted a .375 on-base percentage last season and would help Toronto fill the hole in center field created by Colby Rasmus becoming a free agent.
Though Jose Bautista remains in right, the Blue Jays still have a clear need in the outfield with Melky Cabrera also hitting the market. Aside from Bautista, the other two-thirds of the outfield project to be filled by some combination of Dalton Pompey, Kevin Pillar and whoever else the Jays can sign after they non-tendered Andy Dirks and John Mayberry Jr. on Tuesday. Pompey is a highly regarded prospect with limited big league experience (17 games), and Pillar hit .267/.295/.397 in 122 plate appearances last season.
Meanwhile, Fowler posted a career-high 124 wRC+ in 2014, the result of a productive year offensively while spending his first season away from the hitter-friendly Coors Field, where Fowler played the first five-plus years of his career as a member of the Rockies. It showed as much as anything that he can still reach base consistently with or without favorable ballpark conditions, and moving to Rogers Centre (also a notoriously offense-boosting park) would, of course, be right in line with his earlier experience in Denver.
Fowler doesn't come without a few concerns, however. Though he possesses an excellent eye at the plate (albeit with an exceptionally high strikeout rate as well) and above-average speed (double-digit steals every year of his career plus 57 total triples), Fowler had trouble navigating the outfield at Minute Maid Park (and just about every other ballpark) last year. He posted a -36.2 UZR/150, which put him dead last—by a very healthy margin—among players at any position. Though the mark was a career-worst for Fowler, it also extended his streak of having a negative zone rating in every season of his career.
The Astros don't necessarily need (or want) Fowler and his relatively pricey salary next season, which should be somewhere in the ballpark of $9 million through arbitration—his final year of the process, which means his team control is at a minimum heading into the season. George Springer or Jake Marisnick can also fill in for Fowler, which might be preferable anyway for a team looking to develop as much young talent in as little time as possible.