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Yankees 2016 Potential Free Agent Target: Dexter Fowler

While a deal with the Yankees is unlikely, Dexter Fowler had a strong year with the Cubs, and it would be worth taking a look at him should the Yankees go in a different direction.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

2015 Statistics: 690 PA, .250/.346/.411, 29 2B, 20 SB, 17 HR, 84 BB, 154 K, 110 wRC+

2016 Age: 30

Position: Center field

So far this offseason, Brett Gardner has been at the center of many trade rumors. If the Yankees wanted to look at Dexter Fowler to possibly join the team in 2016, Gardner would definitely need to be shipped out of town. When the Yankees brought in Aaron Hicks in the John Ryan Murphy deal, many considered the Gardner trade rumors to now be null, as Hicks is not much of an everyday player.

Fowler made $9.5 million on a one-year deal last year, and spent the past two years of his career in Houston and Chicago, before spending the first six years of his career in Colorado. Fowler had a pretty good year last year, being a staple in the center of the Cubs' outfield. Fowler was overlooked in an outfield consisting of young talent with the likes of Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler, but after struggling a bit in the first half, he finished off the season with a strong second half, slashing .272/.389/.463 with a 137 wRC+.

If the Yankees even wanted to consider Fowler, Gardner would have to be the odd man out. However, the two are pretty similar players in some aspects. For example, Gardner's slash was .259/.343/.399 (105 wRC+), while Fowler's was .250/.346/.411 (110 wRC+). Both men have the speed to swipe some bases (20 for Fowler, 20 for Gardner), and both have similar hard-hit ball rates (27.7% for Fowler, 26.2% for Gardner) and contact rates on swings (80.2% for Fowler, 81.3% for Gardner).

Along with all their similarities, the two players also differ quite a bit. Fowler's career walk percentage is 12.4%, while Gardner's is only 10.1%. Meanwhile, Fowler's career strikeout percentage is 22.2%, while Gardner's is lower at 18.9%. One of the most glaring differences between the two is on defense. Gardner, is his time in New York, has been well-known for his defense. In his eight years as a Yankee, Gardner has a career .992 fielding percentage, and a Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) of 90. Fowler is a bit lower on the defensive spectrum. In his eight years, he has a career .984 fielding percentage, and a -56 DRS.

If Cashman wanted to bring in Fowler and deal Gardner, it would most likely be for a pitcher, either as a straight swap or part of a package. The Yankees are now looking to put together a bullpen, with both Adam Warren and Justin Wilson leaving town. However, they have also made it clear that they are looking to add a starter, and with the team's new policy of "young and cheap," they won't be going after any of the big name starters remaining. However, if the team really does want to follow this new policy, Fowler would be worth a look. He is 29 (will be 30 by the time the season starts), while Gardner is 32. BP Wrigleyville made a good case for Fowler's contract projection, with a four-year, $65 million deal, which is an average of $16.25 million a year. Gardner's average annual salary is less, at only $12 million.

Along with the obstacle of trading Gardner, another hurdle that would have to be cleared with Fowler is that the team would have to give up a first-round pick to sign him, as he rejected the Cubs' qualifying offer earlier this fall. Also, Fowler has played just one inning of his career away from center field, and that was in right field. So if Fowler were to stick with his natural position, Jacoby Ellsbury would have to go into left field, which he hasn't done since 2010 with Boston. While it looks to be pretty unlikely, do you think it would it be worth it for the Yankees to sell Gardner, bring in Fowler, and surrender a first-round pick?