Feb. 9: Almora’s deal comes with a $1.25MM base salary that can be increased via incentives, tweets Heyman.
Feb. 7: The Mets are in agreement on a contract with free agent outfielder Albert Almora Jr., pending a physical, report Ken Rosenthal and Andy McCullough of the Athletic (Twitter link). It is expected to be a major league, incentive-laden deal for the Magnus Sports client, hears Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter).
Selected sixth overall in the 2012 draft by the Cubs out of a Florida high school, Almora had previously spent his entire career in the Chicago organization. Well-regarded as a prospect for his defensive acumen in center field, Almora broke into the majors midway through the Cubs’ World Series winning 2016 season. Over his first year-plus as a big leaguer, he looked to be establishing himself as another long-term core piece for Chicago. Between 2016-17, Almora was roughly a league average hitter. Combined with his glove in center, he at least seemed to be establishing himself as a solid regular.
Unfortunately, Almora’s offense has fallen since then. In 2018, he hit .286/.323/.378 with just five home runs over 479 plate appearances. While he made plenty of contact and hit for a high batting average, Almora’s overall offensive value was rather limited to his lack of power and meager 5.0% walk rate. Unfortunately, that drop-off at the plate continued, as he stumbled to a .236/.271/.381 line over 363 plate appearances in 2019. Almora spent most of last season at the Cubs’ alternate training site, starting just six regular-season games and being left off the roster for their playoff series against the Marlins. Chicago unsurprisingly non-tendered him after the season.
Even coming off a few poor years, it’s easy to see why the Mets were interested in bringing Almora in on what’s surely a low-cost deal. Advanced defensive metrics are divided on the extent of Almora’s impact with the glove, but they all agree he’s at least a solid center fielder. Over 2,612.1 career innings at the position, Almora has rated as six runs better than average, in the estimation of Defensive Runs Saved. Statcast’s range-based metric is more bullish, crediting Almora with fourteen plays above average. Ultimate Zone Rating, meanwhile, has rated him as closer to a break-even defender.
The Mets’ projected primary outfield of Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto is one of the better offensive groupings in the game but comes with obvious question marks in the field. Almora figures to serve as an oft-used defensive replacement at the end of games, perhaps bumping Nimmo to a corner and moving Smith off the grass when New York is protecting a late lead. A right-handed hitter, Almora also offers an obvious complement to the left-handed bats of Smith, Nimmo and Conforto. Guillermo Heredia is already on hand as a right-handed hitting fourth outfielder, but Almora offers a bit more upside in that role.
If Almora regains his footing at the plate, his stay in Queens could extend beyond next season. As a player with four-plus years of MLB service, Almora remains controllable via arbitration through the end of 2022.