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Dexter Fowler to decline mutual option, become free agent

The World Series champion will hit free agency for the second straight winter.

MLB: World Series-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler will decline his side of a $9 million mutual option and become a free agent, Fowler said on SportsCenter. Both the Cubs and Fowler would have had to exercise their sides of the option for Fowler to stay off the free-agent market.

Fowler’s decision comes as no surprise, as he will look to capitalize on a strong season by looking for long-term deals on the open market. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers and 13 steals for the World Series champions, and reached the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.

Fowler may still return to the Cubs, who are celebrating their first World Series championship since 1908 with a downtown parade today. Chicago is expected to be active on the free-agent market once again, just a year after re-signing Fowler and adding key pieces John Lackey and Jason Heyward.

Fowler did not sign with the Cubs until late February last winter, shocking many in the game by agreeing to a 1-year, $13 million deal with Chicago in the middle of spring training. Reports of a multi-year deal between Fowler and the Orioles had surfaced in the days prior to his return to the Cubs, though he ultimately ended up returning for his second season in Chicago.