Chicago Cubs: The case of Albert Almora, Jr.
Almora will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason and he only made $615,500 in 2019. He won’t be as expensive as Russell would be, and therefore it’s more likely that the Cubs will offer Almora a contract for 2020.
Still, there may be some doubt because, by most standards, Almora took a step backward in 2019. He became more of a power hitter, slugging a career-high 12 home runs, but almost everything else was down, including runs, doubles, RBI and walks. His batting average plummeted from .286 in 2018 to .236, as did his OBP, from .323 to .271, while his slugging percentage only rose from .378 to .381. On defense, Almora’s WAR fell from 1.1 to -0.4.
Is it too early to give up on Almora? Perhaps, although there have always been concerns about his ability to hit for power or to be patient at the plate. He could still have value as a fourth outfielder; even if the Cubs bring back Nicholas Castellanos (for right field) and put Jason Heyward in center, they’ll need someone to back up those two plus Kyle Schwarber in left.
There aren’t any obvious internal candidates to replace Almora, while it’s hard to imagine them finding someone externally who will be cheaper. There’s even been talk of trading Almora, though the Cubs likely wouldn’t get much of value in return.
The guess here is that, given Almora’s projected low salary and the current lack of outfield depth, the Cubs will offer Almora a contract for 2020. However, it will be a critical year for him, as he’ll have to hit for average and play good defense to have much value. If he doesn’t show improvement, there’s a good chance he won’t be back in 2021.