Last season, both Jose Altuve and Dexter Fowler gave the Astros a solid duo at the top of the lineup. Both players were on base machines, and should George Springer and Jon Singleton take that next step, the Astros offense could begin to be a rather solid group.
However, with the Astros in need of several pieces, especially in the bullpen, Nick Cafardo has reported that Fowler is on the trade block. Considering that the best free agent center fielder may be Colby Rasmus, even a somewhat competent center fielder may be able to bring back a solid return in trade.
Dexter Fowler would certainly fit that description. Last season, Fowler produced a .276/.375/.399 batting line, hitting eight home runs and stealing 11 bases. While Fowler may not be the same speed merchant that he was when he was routinely hitting double digit triples, Fowler still has solid speed and an excellent ability to get on base.
Now, along with Jason Castro, Fowler is available. With the Astros truly targeting bullpen help, even going so far as to show interest in the former New York Yankees closer David Robertson, Jeff Luhnow is exploring every avenue possible to find those desperately needed relievers. Given the struggles in the bullpen last year, that help is sorely needed.
However, trading Dexter Fowler may not be the best way to improve the bullpen. Unless Rasmus can put together a season like he did in 2010 or 2013, there really are not any upgrades available in free agency. Can L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman or Andrew Aplin take over in that role?
Yes, Fowler is likely to become a free agent after the season. As he does not seem to be the exact same player that he was even a couple of seasons ago, it seems unlikely that the Astros would look to extend Fowler. However, even with that caveat, the Astros just do not seem to have a seem to have a suitable replacement at present.
Even if Dexter Fowler will not be a part of the future, he can still help that future for the Astros by allowing his possible replacement more time to develop. That may prove more valuable than whatever reliever that the Astros could get for him.