Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) February 25, 2016
Turns out, Fowler had other plans, and it was officially announced today that he'd agreed to a 1-year deal to return to the Chicago Cubs, the team with whom he had great success in 2015. While the move continues the arsenal-building on the North side of Chicago - their OF options alone now consist of Fowler, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jorge Soler, and Ben Zobrist - what's important to Cincinnati Reds fans is whether this puts the Orioles back in the mix for Jay Bruce. The two were connected in rumors as recently as two weeks ago, according to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, and it's clear with their pursuit of Fowler that the O's have sincere interest in adding another bat to their OF mix. Baltimore lost both Alejandro De Aza and Gerardo Parra to free agency, saw significant regression from Steve Pearce in 2015, finally waived goodbye to Delmon Young, and would probably prefer to keep Mark Trumbo as their DH, so there's certainly a fit.
Also, considering that this guy is currently atop their RF depth chart, even Bruce's struggles since his knee injury in 2014 seem to be an upgrade. The question, of course, will come down to how much the Orioles are willing to offer - both in prospects and in money.
Speaking of that money, new Reds GM Dick Williams told reporters this morning that the reduction in payroll for 2016 as compared to previous years won't be simply kept as 'profit,' and will indeed 'be reinvested' into the team itself. That's interesting given how the Reds have reportedly been doing everything they can to get an acquiring team to take all of Bruce's salary, something you wouldn't expect them to need to do after already having reduced payroll by upwards of $30 million since this time last season. Maybe that's being targeted for a huge international signing, or maybe they're just saving up to make a run at Bryce Harper. Stop laughing. Okay, you can keep laughing.
In other news, it seems the idea that Billy Hamilton can still be the Reds' leadoff hitter is still an idea that exists, at least in the mind of Hamilton himself, reports The Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans. Bryan Price is at least giving lip service to the concept, too, though perhaps that has as much to do with the decimated roster he's dealing with at the moment as it does about the possibility of Hamilton excelling in the leadoff spot. Look, there are still ample ways that Hamilton has provided and will continue to provide value to the Reds, but much like asking Joey Votto to pitch, batting Hamilton leadoff isn't how you unlock added value.
With Hamilton on the brain, take a gander at this list of players that FanGraphs compiled as potential extension candidates. Its primary focus is on a group of players who have compiled over 2 years of service time and have been worth between -0.7 fWAR and 6.5 fWAR in the process. Hamilton has over 2 years of service time and won't be arbitration eligible until the 2017 season, and he's been worth 6.1 fWAR to the Reds so far thanks to gifted baserunning and otherworldly defense, yet for some reason he didn't make the cut for inclusion here. Perhaps that's because his problems with the bat have torpedoed the overall perception of his game, but I somewhat thought that premise was the entire reason FanGraphs was created in the first place. It's a given that any extension offered to Billy would be crucified in Facebook comments around the planet, but the concept itself isn't wholly foreign given how he fits in with these peers. What kind of contract would you offer Billy at this point?
Finally, it seems that Zack Cozart is feeling healthy, according to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, though the quotes from the player in this article don't exactly inspire confidence that he's got his full confidence back quite yet. That's surely to be expected - you don't just get the mentality you can do things again after such a devastating injury until you see yourself actually do them - but how much he'll be able to recoup that confidence between now and Opening Day remains to be seen. Recently, Joey Votto spoke about how this particular offseason was so refreshing since it was the first one in years where he was just focusing, not rehabbing, and how that has him poised to bash brains in 2016. Hopefully, Cozy's up for the challenge, and perhaps the experience of the 2011-2012 offseason when he had Tommy John surgery will expedite the process for him.