Cubs: Team needs to have short leash on Albert Almora

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs tendered a contract to Albert Almora on Monday, but he needs to show drastic improvements to be worthy of a roster spot.

The majority of the news on Monday involved Addison Russell being non-tendered, a much-needed move for the Chicago Cubs to finally move forward. However, lost in the shuffle was Albert Almora receiving a contract from the team despite his poor play last season. Almora, 25, was one of six arbitration-eligible players – including Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Ryan – tendered a contract. While the other five players were deemed worthy of a contract, I actually wouldn’t have been shocked if Almora had been shown the door.

The former sixth-overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft – and Theo Epstein’s first draft pick – was allowed to become the everyday centerfielder. In the minors, Almora always received high praise for his defense, and it appeared that his bat had finally caught up when he slashed .298/.338/.445 (100 OPS+) in 2017.

But that all came crashing down in the second half of the 2018 season when Almora batted an unimpressive .232. That disappointment carried over into 2019 when he hit .236 and was sent down to Triple-A in mid-August. It’s a small sample size to make a definitive judgment, but his .224 average in 13 games for Iowa didn’t exactly build any confidence for Almora or the Cubs. Granted, he batted just .215 after the foul ball incident in Houston, which I am sure had an impact on his mental state.

Perhaps what was more surprising was that Almora’s once highly-touted defensive turned into the second-worst centerfielder last year. No longer could his defense justify him being on a lineup card. As previously noted, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the Cubs had decided to move on from Almora in an offseason that figures to have more change than just non-tendering Russell.

And for the first time since the 2015 season, the Cubs are under new leadership in rookie manager, David Ross. The hiring of the former Cub was a risky move for Theo Epstein, who could very well find himself on the hot seat if Ross doesn’t pan out. The centerfield position may potentially see a platoon of Almora and Ian Happ in 2020. Happ, 25, was also subject to a demotion last season after his strikeout rate was above 36 percent during the 2018 campaign.

dark. Next. The Addison Russell saga is finally over

He was called up at the end of July and slashed .264/.333/.564 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI (127 wRC+) in just 58 games. Happ’s strikeout rate decreased to 25 percent, and the Cubs can afford that if he produces for a full season.