Chicago Cubs need to swap Albert Almora for Ian Happ at Triple-A Iowa

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

Albert Almora‘s tough finish to the 2018 season has carried over into the first few weeks of this year. Is it time for the Chicago Cubs to address his struggles?

There is no question that the Chicago Cubs are loaded with talent in the outfield. We all know what Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Albert Almora and Jason Heyward can bring to the table. The question lies on who can bring consistency to their game, and that’s something we haven’t seen from any of these guys with any sort of regularity. With Happ currently spending time in Triple-A, it may be time for Almora to join him or take his place out in Des Moines.

Almora has brought a good amount of consistency to his game at the early stages of his career, as his .298 average and .338 on-base percentage during his first full campaign in 2017 shows. He is a contact hitter and has been someone Cubs fans are confident can come to the plate and get a base hit in a big situation. Whether or not he can ever work counts more effectively and draw more walks remains to be seen.

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He has also shown flashes of being one of the game’s best center fielders with some incredible glove work. However, we haven’t seen the Almora we know and love in quite some time. Dating back to last season, he’s struggled at the plate.

Almora batted .231 starting in September to finish last season, and he’s opened 2019 batting .244. For someone with a career batting average of .287, something doesn’t seem right. With the season so young, right now could be the perfect opportunity for Almora to spend some time in Iowa to work on his approach to the plate.

Sure, Kyle Schwarber is off to a .192 start this year, and in light of his blow up after Saturday’s loss to the Angels, wouldn’t it make sense for him to hit the reset button and spend time in Iowa? It could, but Schwarber spent time in Iowa last year and with Happ currently there now, Almora is the only member of the young Cubs’ outfield trio that’s avoided Triple-A to this point.

Rather than trying to work out struggles in a lineup trying to win now, it would make sense to let Almora get his head straight, potentially swapping him with his fellow first-rounder, Happ. It may be premature, but I think it’s time we see what Happ can do for this team right now, and making room for him by sending a struggling Almora down could be the most beneficial thing for this team not only right now, but for the rest of the season.

In the past, we’ve seen Theo Epstein reluctant to do anything with guys he’s really high on. Take Schwarber for example. The Cubs drafted him fourth overall in 2014 out of Indiana University, a selection many deemed a reach. He then made it known that Schwarber was not touchable in any trade because how strongly the organization believed in his potential.

Epstein finally swallowed his pride and sent a sub-.200 hitting Schwarber to Iowa mid-season two years ago. This ultimately helped him for the better, and maybe it’s time the Cubs’ president of baseball operations eat some crow with Almora. Drafted sixth overall in 2012, Epstein has been very high on Almora from the start. Just like Schwarber, Almora has proved his worth to this team, but it’s important for the team to hold guys accountable when they aren’t playing up to expectations.

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Not even 20 games into the season, the Cubs are in a great spot to focus on development and to do what’s right for the long run. Giving Albert Almora a chance to reset in Triple-A is the best thing for the Cubs right now, and it may cause some stir, but it’s a move Epstein should make at the end of the day. Let’s see what Ian Happ can do for us while letting Almora get his mind right for an All-Star campaign we all know he has in him.