The Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader problem

Dexter Fowler has been in an offensive funk for all of 2018 (AP)
Dexter Fowler has been in an offensive funk for all of 2018 (AP)

The next time you’re spending a late night in your office, bills strewn around you, trying to figure out how everything balances, be glad for one thing.

At least you don’t have to pay for Dexter Fowler.

Fowler is having an albatross season for the Cardinals. He’s slashing .171/.275/.276, which is beyond horrid. He’s been a negative defensive player. And St. Louis still owes him $16.5 million per year through the 2021 season.

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At what point does a bad start become a lost season? And does a lost season at age 32 mean a tanked career? Perhaps knee and wrist injuries have bothered Fowler more than anyone realizes, though he hasn’t been on the disabled list this year.

St. Louis has other outfield options, starting with Harrison Bader. The 24-year-old isn’t smashing in his Cardinals debut, but he’s been a plus contributor. He’s at .274/.339/.423 for his 175 at-bats, with six homers and eight steals. He’s been a plus defender.

Bader has been especially involved in the last two St. Louis victories. He went 3-for-5 with a home run (this blast to center field) in Thursday’s 11-2 victory at San Francisco, and he had two hits, one run, and a steal in Wednesday’s 8-4 win at Arizona.

Fowler was out of the mix for four games, on the paternity list. He came back Thursday but didn’t start; he struck out in a later at-bat.

I have no problem with a fantasy cut on Fowler — obviously, we were there a while ago. He currently trades at 23 percent, which is too high. But Bader is the interesting x-factor here. If the Cardinals could ever commit to him, his three-percent tag would spike immensely. Category juice is a lovely thing.

It’s a conundrum for the Cardinals. At what point does Fowler become a sunk cost? At what point does Bader force his way into the lineup for an extended period? If nothing else, you have to assume Bader’s last two games will force more playing time over the rest of the San Francisco series. Consider a stab in deeper leagues.

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