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Colorado Rockies Year in Review: Trading Dexter Fowler

What were those two still doing together, anyway?

People often have that reaction to a bad break-up. They watch from afar, they cringe at all of the tough times for the couple, and they can react with nothing more than a resigned shrug when the break-up finally happens. Not to trivialize real-life break-ups, but that’s kind of how things felt for the Colorado Rockies and Dexter Fowler when the team finally traded their center fielder this off-season.

In the end Fowler’s tenure with the Rockies was a tease more than anything else. The guy just looks like he should be a star, and every now and then those skills would be on display. He would get those long legs going as he galloped from first to third with jaw-dropping speed. He would track down line drives in the vast gaps of Coors Field that were surely meant to be extra base hits. He would even send an occasional home run into the crisp Colorado night, flipping his bat with a swagger that seemed fitting and irrational all at the same time.

He is the franchise leader in triples and a career .270 hitter. After hitting a career high 13 home runs in 2012, he hit another 12 in a shortened 2013 campaign (granted most of them came in the first two months). He is 27 years old, by all accounts the true prime of a promising MLB position player. Those are the arguments that Colorado should have kept Fowler instead of dishing him to Houston. Unfortunately they only tell half of the story.

Like that couple you know, Fowler and the Rockies organization have some ugly history. Two separate demotions to Triple-A to find his swing. A demotion out of the lead-off spot to send a message about his under-performance in Spring Training. On the one hand, the Rockies showed great confidence in Fowler and invested in his long-term development. On the other hand, they undercut that development a number of times in the process.

That all culminated when general manager took a shot at Fowler’s “passion for the game” last month. Still, if you consider the arc of the last two years, to trade Fowler now seems to make less sense than the alternatives.

The Rockies could have “sold high” on Fowler last off-season, which would have been a way to capitalize on the fact that their patience seemed to have paid off. If they weren’t going to do that, it seemed like they should keep him (and his admittedly balky salary figure) and continue to reap the benefits themselves, even with him coming off a down season.

They did not follow either of these logical conclusions, and so it felt like the tenure of a franchise favorite ended with a clunk. That’s disappointing, but if you consider how things have gone for Fowler and the Rockies since his debut in 2008, it might also be fitting.

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