Angels outfielder Dexter Fowler suffered a torn left ACL, the team announced. Fowler will undergo surgery that will keep him out of action for the next six to nine months, thus prematurely ending his 2021 season.
Fowler suffered the injury in Friday’s game with the Blue Jays, as he made an awkward step onto second base to beat out a throw from Bo Bichette on a forceout attempt. Fowler was in obvious pain and had to be carted off the field, and although the Angels’ initial diagnosis when placing him on the 10-day injured list on Saturday was only a sprained knee, further tests revealed the true severity of the injury.
The devastating news could end Fowler’s tenure with the Angels after only seven games. Since Fowler just turned 35 years old, it isn’t out of the question that the injury could spell the end of his impressive 14-year career, but it is too soon to speculate given that the surgery has yet to even take place.
The Angels acquired Fowler in a trade with the Cardinals last February that was essentially a salary dump on the Cards’ part. For the price of a player to be named later, Los Angeles is paying only $1.75M of the $16.5M owed to Fowler (counting salary and signing bonus installments) in the final year of his original five-year, $82.5M free-agent contract with St. Louis. The Halos’ plan was to start Fowler as the everyday right fielder, at least until star prospects Jo Adell or Brandon Marsh received big league promotions later in the season.
With Fowler sidelined, however, manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya) that the team will use a platoon of Jose Rojas and Juan Lagares in right field, with Jared Walsh also seeing some time in right. Besides Adell and Marsh, the Angels also have veterans Jon Jay and Scott Schebler in the organization on minor league contracts, and 2015 first-rounder Taylor Ward could also be a candidate for playing time. Looking at the ripple effect over the rest of the roster, Walsh playing right field could open up more time for Albert Pujols at first base.
The Angels are the fifth team Fowler has suited up for at the big league level, as part of a career that includes an All-Star appearance in 2016 and a World Series ring that same season with the Cubs. He signed his big free-agent deal with St. Louis in the aftermath of that big 2016 campaign, but Fowler never quite got on track during his four years with the Cardinals. Injuries limited to Fowler to 389 games and an even 1,500 PA, as he hit .233/.334/.408 and generated roughly league-average production (98 OPS+, 100 wRC+) and only 3.0 total fWAR.