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Baffoe: In Landing Dexter Fowler, Cubs Have Luck On Their Side Now Too

By Tim Baffoe--

(CBS) #WeAreLucky probably isn't a hashtag that will take the Cubs' Twitter by storm this year as #WeAreGood organically did in 2015, but lucky is how the team and fans are feeling as the opening week of spring training wraps up.

Because somehow center fielder Dexter Fowler is a Cub again. Because midweek, he was a Baltimore Oriole. Because at all times, unless we're Theo Epstein, we know as much as Bruce Levine's phone's autocorrect.

(Crosses Inside the Clubhouse off list of remaining 670 The Score shows I'm not blacklisted from.)

To recap the weirdness of Thursday, the Cubs sort of surprisingly traded outfielder Chris Coghlan to the Oakland Athletics for less-than-stellar pitcher and coincidental-Chicago-sports-name Aaron Brooks, who will probably wind up being really good because that's what happens with pitchers the Cubs trade for. At first the general reaction was ... OK? Coghlan's a solid bench guy who provides injury insurance, and his trade didn't seem necessary, but that particular time with that whatever-trade wouldn't be the moment to start lighting torches against a Cubs front office that had killed it since last season ended.

Then less than an hour later, Epstein walked into a Cubs practice with supposed-Oriole Fowler for some reason.

Maybe Fowler wanted a refund from the last time Travis Wood scammed him on a carnival ring toss game? Wishing David Ross a proper farewell before it becomes cliche around baseball? Nah.

The top remaining free-agent outfielder in baseball, Fowler had just driven the night before from Las Vegas to the Phoenix area, passed a physical and then signed on Thursday a one-year deal with the Cubs with a mutual 2017 option. That was for less money than the qualifying offer the Cubs threw out as a formality a few months ago. Fowler was again a Cub, just like we all figured would happen after they added Jason Heyward to the crowded outfield mix and all reports a few days ago said Fowler and Baltimore had agreed to a three-year deal.

As nice as it would be to twist the screws a bit more on Theo Climate Change skeptics and chalk this up to more new age Cubs front office brilliance, this fell into the team's lap. The Orioles had a deal sewn up but balked in the end.

"There was not an agreement to terms because (Fowler and his agent) kept insisting on an opt-out," said Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, who seems to find himself being perpetually pantsed by the Cubs this decade for some reason.

Still, word had gotten out already -- maybe strategically by the Orioles to pressure Fowler into signing with them -- that a deal in Baltimore was done. This prompted Fowler's agent, Casey Close, to issue the following angry statement after his client signed with Chicago.

"I never gave the Orioles a verbal commitment at all," Fowler said. "I don't know where that came from, but it did not come from our camp. It put me in a bad spot, but the Cubs made a good offer, and now you come back to what you know."

But Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said you told him you were on your way to their camp, Dex.

Hey, whatever. Maybe some spite came into play here or maybe it's some political thriller double-timing. Either way, the Cubs accidentally benefit.

The roster most believe was the best in baseball going into the week will end the week better, as Fowler > Coghlan and Heyward in right field > Heyward in center field. And it took no strategy.

For all the presumed (and kind of frightening) talk of a slam dunk of a pennant at Wrigley Field this coming season -- and deep scar tissue of being a Cubs fan and curse BS aside -- even the best team on paper needs some good fortune like the Fowler Incident to fill out the eventual documentary chronicling a championship. Maybe if everything goes right in 2016, people will speak of the 24 hours that Fowler and the front office were absolutely silent about a WWE-style secret reunion.

Because "on paper" has a way of finding the waste basket in a long baseball season and crapshoot playoffs. Even the best team needs a few breaks to come its way, and I don't just mean crossing fingers that Anthony Rizzo stays healthy and doesn't expose the gaping hole the Cubs have at backup first baseman.

Nothing about 2016 was guaranteed for the Cubs on Thursday morning. On Friday morning, it's a bit less not guaranteed.

Lucky them.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.

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