As we suggested back in November, the Orioles waited for the market to settle and are now trying to fill every hole on the roster they can. This is similar to what happened a couple years ago. Back in the winter of '14, the Orioles blew their first round pick on Ubaldo Jimenez and then slashed their second round pick on Nelson Cruz. The former has been forgettable and the latter made their first place finish obscenely in front as opposed to comfortably in front. Gallardo may well be 2016's Jimenez who might be paired with a 2016 Cruz in Dexter Fowler or the other way around. Fowler has a number of question marks associated with him similarly to how Cruz had his own issues. Both are/were capable of big things and both had/have a risk of completely crapping out.
The comp model is not particularly excited about Fowler. His late 20s look most similar to these ten outfielders: Brady Anderson, Brian McRae, David Dejesus, Marvin Benard, Shane Victorino, Mark Kotsay, David Murphy, Fred Lewis, Randy Winn, and Shannon Stewart. As a group, these players remained remarkably healthy and logged a great number of innings from age 30 to 32. McRae, Benard, and Lewis are the only ones who completely crapped out. A 70% three year retention number is a great figure for players in their early 30s.
The above table was constructed based on Fowler being a right fielder and performing as a -5 run defender. A general rule of thumb is that a player gains ten runs when shifting from a center field position to a corner position. However, center fielders with below average arms are general thought to only gain five runs with a shift to right field. As such, a general expectation of Fowler would have him as a -10 run CF, -5 run RF, and 0 run LF. As a left fielder, he looks like a decent signing, but nothing special and certainly one a club would hate to lose a draft pick. As a right fielder, he looks like a poor player to look in long term. That said, if Hyun-Soo Kim is starting, you would want Fowler in right as opposed to Kim regardless of what WAR says about Fowler individually.
Again, there are reasons why some players are the last to sign. Fowler is a below average hitter from the left side for an outfielder and is mostly a below average defensive outfielder. Adding to the confusion over his value is that he has logged minimal innings from a corner outfield position (95 innings in Rookie and Fall League before Fowler turned 21 in addition to one major league inning in 2008). With that in mind, he certainly feels better than Nolan Reimold and whoever, but maybe only 0.5 wins better. To sober up that thought, PECOTA pegs Reimold and Fowler as equal value in Right Field when given the same playing time.
It all seems highly questionable because the club appears to be moving the needle slightly while dedicating a high level of resources for that small incremental change. In fact, if both Gallardo and Fowler signings are finalized, the Orioles will be the biggest spenders of this past off season. As it stands, a Gallardo addition roughly moves the club from a 12% to 15% shot of getting into the play-in game (first place is about 1%). Fowler moves the club up into the 17% range with maybe 2 to 3% shot at first. Vegas odds have a similar take with the Orioles enjoying 50 to 1 odds. Maybe the Orioles have a different way of figuring out how good of a club they are.