Fowler, 28, spent last season with Houston after six years in Colorado. In his first season in the American League, Fowler hit .276/.375/.399 in 116 games. He’s spent most of his career hitting leadoff (404 G, .271/.366/.431), and may get more opportunities to run with the Cubs.
A seven-year veteran, Fowler provides clubhouse leadership and addresses one of the team’s weaknesses with a career OBP of .366. He made one post-season appearance for the Rockies during his career, hitting .214 in four games in 2009.
Fowler has spent parts of the past two seasons on the disabled list. He missed two weeks with Colorado in 2013 with a bone bruise in his right had and then missed 40 games last season in Houston with a rib cage strain.
Fowler is the second outfielder the front office has added this off season, joining Chris Denorfia. Cubs will head to spring training with eight outfielders on the 40-man including Arismendy Alcantara, Chris Coghlan, Junior Lake, Jorge Soler, Ryan Sweeney and Matt Szczur.
The Cubs and the switch-hitting outfielder must come to an agreement on a contract by Feb. 1 or have the case go to arbitration. A free agent in 2016, Fowler is in his final year of arbitration and made $7.3 million last year in Houston. Before the trade, Fowler was asking the Astros for $10.8 million while they had countered with $8.5 million. The Cubs had already agreed to a $4.2 million deal with Valbuena, avoiding arbitration.
Fowler was the Rockies 14th round pick out of Milton High School in Georgia, the same high school that produced Cubs 2014 draft pick Dylan Cease as well as former Cubs Kyle Farnsworth and Bobby Scales. He made a quick rise through the Rockies system, making his MLB debut in 2008 after reaching AA. He has a career slash line of .271/.366/.419 in 783 big league games.
A waiver claim in April of 2012, Valbuena spent three seasons with the Cubs, playing primarily second and third. In 347 games with the North Siders, the 29-year-old hit .232/.330/.394 and slugged a career-high 16 homers last year. Valbuena will get a chance to stat at third for Houston.
Straily was acquired from the A’s in the Jeff Samardzija trade in July and was originally assigned to Iowa. Straily made 10 starts in Des Moines and was promoted to Wrigley. In seven big league games with Chicago, the 26-year-old went 0-1 with a 11.85 ERA in 13.2 IP. Good opportunity for the right-hander as he was a long shot to make the Cubs 25-man roster out of spring training and without injuries, would have most likely spent the entire year at Iowa.
Following the trade, the Cubs have 39 players on the active roster.