1. OF Dexter Fowler
Opening Day Age: 31
2016 Stats: .276 average, .393 on-base percentage, .447 slugging, 13 homers, 13 stolen bases, 551 plate appearances
Skinny: I didn’t put this one here to tease or depress you. The fact is Fowler is by far the best fit for the Orioles’ needs in 2017. He’s a strong defender, a leadoff hitter, and an on-base machine. He’s coming off a great season with the World Champion Chicago Cubs in which he likely would have had gaudier stats if he hadn’t missed a month with a hamstring injury.
Plus, we know the Orioles like him. They reportedly had signed him to a three-year, $33 million deal in February before everything went loopy and Fowler re-signed with the Cubs. That one-year move paid off, because he’s now in line for a four-year deal worth a lot more annually.
There is some question that there might be hard feelings from last year’s negotiations and that’s why Fowler won’t sign with the Orioles. Don’t believe it. Millions of dollars have a way of softening all hard feelings. The reason Fowler isn’t going to sign with the Orioles is that they aren’t going to offer him enough of those millions. He’s one of the most coveted free agents this season, and the Orioles aren’t going to get into – or win – a bidding war.
Bottom line: Fowler has to top this list because he should be the Orioles’ Priority No. 1 and would immediately strengthen the team’s primary weakness. I just can’t envision it happening.