Jan 19, 2015 5:47 PM

Fowler traded from Astros to Cubs for Valbuena and Straily

The Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) The Chicago Cubs hope Dexter Fowler will provide outfield strength and spark at the top of the batting order.

"He does control the strike zone really well," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday after acquiring Fowler from the Houston Astros for infielder Luis Valbuena and right-hander Dan Straily.

Fowler, 28, hit .276 with eight homers and 35 RBIs last year in his only season with the Astros, who obtained him from Colorado for outfielder Brandon Barnes and right-hander Jordan Lyles.

Fowler, who has a .271 career average, asked last week for $10.8 million in arbitration and was offered $8.5 million. He is eligible for free agency after the season.

"He can potentially lead off for us. I won't sit here and make the lineup card out for Joe (Maddon), but he certainly fits well in that role," Hoyer said. "It really gives us much needed depth in center field and in the outfield. We felt like we were a little bit imbalanced as far as our depth, that we were certainly a deeper team in the infield than we were in the outfield."

The 29-year-old Valbuena played third base primarily last year but also saw time at second. He hit .249 with 33 doubles, 16 homers and 51 RBIs. Valbuena agreed Friday to a $4.2 million, one-year contract and can become a free agent after the 2016 World Series.

Straily, 26, was 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA last season in eight starts and six relief appearances for Oakland and the Cubs, who acquired him as part of the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to the Athletics. He was 10-8 for the A's in 2013.

The arrival of Fowler puts Arismendy Alcantara in more of a utility role. The departure of Valbuena creates an opening at third, although Hoyer insisted it will not accelerate prized prospect Kris Bryant's arrival in the majors.

He said Mike Olt, Tommy La Stella and Alcantara will compete for time until Bryant is ready.

"When Kris is ready, when we think he's ready to come up to the big leagues, we'll make that decision," Hoyer said. "But certainly trading Valbuena is not gonna speed that clock up at all. It's all dependent on Kris."

Chicago also agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Daniel Bard, who has not pitched in the major leagues since 2013 with Boston. Bard had surgery in January 2014 for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, then agreed to a minor league deal with Texas. He made four appearances in June for the Hickory Crawdads of the Class A South Atlantic League and allowed 13 runs in two-thirds of an innings, a 175.50 ERA.


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