Albert Almora Jr. was more than “just” a Cubs No. 1 draft pick.
He was Theo Epstein’s very first No. 1 pick as Cubs President of Baseball Operations in 2012.
While Almora did have some memorable moments as a Cub, particularly defensively, he never quite panned out the way you’d hope a No. 1 draft pick would.
And now he has a new home:
The Mets have found their center fielder. They are in agreement with free agent Albert Almora Jr. , pending a physical, sources tell me and @ByMcCullough— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 7, 2021
Toward the end of his Cubs tenure, Almora became more of a platoon player/defensive replacement, and he’ll reportedly have the same role in New York:
Almora would fill the Jake Marisnick role with the #Mets — a RHH CF to at least offer a counterbalance to Brandon Nimmo.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 7, 2021
Almora has taken the Juan Lagares path in the majors — defense early and hope that the offense would come, but the offense has never come (in fact it has regressed) and in the last few years the defense has not been as special. #Mets— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 7, 2021
Joel Sherman’s second tweet is accurate and sums up the reasons the Cubs let him go. Almora never developed the power some hoped he would; he never drew a lot of walks nor had base-stealing speed.
When the Cubs reassigned Almora to their alternate site in South Bend last September I wrote this appreciation of his Cubs tenure, figuring he might not be back in a Cubs uniform. That turned out to be correct.
From that article, it’s worth remembering Almora’s signature moment as a Cub, from his rookie year in 2016. He had told Theo Epstein when they were considering selecting him in the first round:
Almora reportedly wowed Theo and the Cubs brass by telling them he wanted to do anything he could to help them win a World Series — this from an 18-year-old high school kid.
And then he did exactly that in Game 7:
In the 10th inning of Game 7, after being inserted to run for Kyle Schwarber, Almora tagged and went from first to second [VIDEO] on a deep fly ball hit by Kris Bryant.
That turned out to be very important, as there’s no guarantee Almora would have scored on Ben Zobrist’s subsequent double if he had only been on first base.
I also posted in last year’s article this video of some great catches Almora made, and it’s worth revisiting them:
Albert Almora Jr. was easy to root for and by all accounts is a great guy and a fine teammate. I wish him well with the Mets. If the 2021 schedule is played as currently laid out, it won’t be long before we see him at Wrigley Field. The Mets are scheduled at Wrigley April 20-21-22.
All the best, Albert, and thanks for the memories.