Mariners rumors: Dexter Fowler could be M's newest trade target

Dustin Bradford

Fowler is a cheaper alternative to Ellsbury and Choo, but his numbers might not carry enough weight outside of the hitter-friendly Coors Field.

All the Mariners want for Christmas is Dexter Fowler. And Matt Kemp, Nelson Cruz, and Carlos Beltran. And okay, maybe Brian Wilson, even if he won't shave his beard. Throw in Jhonny Peralta, too, while you're at it.

Yesterday afternoon, Jon Morosi leaked another name from the Mariners' 2014 wish list: Colorado Rockies' outfielder Dexter Fowler.

As we've been continually reminded so far this offseason, these rumors are nearly worthless, even when they come from reputable sources. The Mariners aren't "in" on Fowler yet. To the extent of our knowledge, they haven't expressed formal interest to the Rockies, let alone made an offer. All we know is that they want the 27-year-old center fielder -- just as much as they want every other outfielder on the market this year. Jack Zduriencik isn't one to spill the beans about big deals, and as Matt reminded us this morning, leaks are more likely to come in the form of Jeremy Bondermans, not Matt Kemps.

With that said, here's the upside for Fowler, should the M's take Dave Cameron's advice and pick him up in a trade: He's healthy, he finished with 2+ fWAR in his last three seasons, and he can slip another right-handed bat into the lineup. Compared to the ultra-hyped outfielders garnering league-wide interest -- Kemp, Ellsbury, and Choo among them -- Fowler might be more of a bargain if the Rockies can be persuaded with the right package.

In the outfield, Fowler's defense leaves something to be desired, but as the saying goes, those who employ Raul Ibanez and Dustin Ackley as outfielders can't be choosers. According to Baseball-Reference's defensive metrics, Fowler cost the 2013 Rockies a handful of runs when compared to league average performances. His fielding percentage was a hair above the average for center fielders, which sounds positive but means next to nothing.

The real catch lies not in Fowler's glove, but in his bat. In 2013, Fowler provided 2.2 fWAR for the Rockies, though the team eventually spiraled to a 74-88 finish, their worst record since they broke .500 in 2010. In 119 games, he batted .263/.369/.407 with 12 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 28 attempts. The year before, he reached several career highs, peaking at 2.5 fWAR and batting .300 in 143 games.

As pretty as those numbers look, however, the East Coast native was swinging in a hitter's paradise. If you can bear it, here are Fowler's home/road splits for 2013, courtesy of FanGraphs:

Split PA HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Home 241 7 27 41 .311 .396 .478 .383
Away 251 5 38 64 .214 .343 .335 .312

And again, in 2012:

Split PA HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Home 293 10 43 61 .332 .431 .553 .422
Away 237 3 25 67 .262 .339 .381 .319

Dave Cameron pointed out that the unnaturally favorable conditions of Coors Field don't necessarily have as much influence on a hitter's stats as we'd like to believe, and given the change in altitude, field dimensions, and league, it's near impossible to predict how well he'd perform in Safeco Field.

I poked around Baseball-Reference a little more this morning and started playing with the Neutralized Batting tool, which was designed to estimate a player's performance in a neutralized environment based on league average runs per game. In 2013, an average of 4.17 runs were scored per MLB game, with 4.328 R/G in the American League. When I plugged Fowler's stats into the context of the 2013 Mariners, this is what the estimator returned:

Split PA HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
SEA 467 10 57 105 .239 .340 .368 .708
COL 492 12 65 105 .263 .369 .407 .776

Fowler hasn't played a season away from Colorado yet, so we have no way of knowing for sure how he'd adjust to another environment, particularly one as vastly different as Safeco. Even if the Mariners find a place for him, his trade value should be approached with tempered expectations.

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