As first reported by Ken Rosenthal, the Mets have reached an agreement with Albert Almora Jr. to join them as a platoon outfielder. It’s a guaranteed deal with what Jon Heyman called “decent incentives,” but specific terms are not available as of press time. Rosenthal’s initial tweet made it seem as though the former Cub would have an everyday role, but he quickly walked that sentiment back.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 7, 2021
Unsurprising as it is, this move means both baserunners from the greatest tag-up in MLB history are officially not returning to the Cubs. Kyle Schwarber singled to lead off the top of the 10th in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and was replaced by Almora, who advanced to second when Kris Bryant flew out to deep right-center.
The Cubs would go on to win, people forget that.
Thanks Al. pic.twitter.com/zdA4w8Ixbk
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) February 7, 2021
People may also forget that Almora was Theo Epstein’s first-ever Cubs draft pick, taken sixth overall out of Mater Academy Charter School in 2012. He had loads of promise due to what was expected to be Gold Glove-level defense in center and an offensive profile that had the potential for a little pop to go along with excellent contact.
Thing is, none of that ever really came together as Almora continued to tweak his swing mechanics and his body over the years. He ditched and returned to a big leg kick to help with timing, but never achieved consistent results. He bulked up to gain power, which meant losing a step he could ill afford given average-at-best speed. Then there’s the oft-repeated criticism of Joe Maddon for never really given Almora a chance, which doesn’t hold much water.
Almora’s production at the plate fell off after 2017 and then plummeted following a tragic foul ball in Houston that left a young fan seriously injured. There’s no one issue at the center of his struggles, though it’s entirely possible a change of scenery will help him recalibrate things both personally and professionally. Of course, the New York pressure cooker isn’t necessarily the ideal environment for everyone in that regard.
Here’s to hoping Almora can put things back together and carve out a role with the Mets this season and maybe parlay that into something bigger down the road.