In his season preview for Albert Almora Jr., the incomparable Richard Staff (whom you should follow on Twitter if you are not doing so already) remembered some outfielders whom the Mets acquired to fill a specific void on the roster—think Alejandro De Aza, John Mayberry Jr., Chris Young, and players of that ilk—and wondered whether the aforementioned Almora would succeed where those others had failed. With his brief stint in orange and blue over, I think it’s safe to say Almora has found himself a home in that group of outfielders, which is not company you want to find yourself in.
The Mets signed Almora right before spring training began with the hopes of fortifying their outfield defense. His signing hardly made waves but gave the club some much-needed outfield depth, although it was a bit perplexing when the team then went and signed Kevin Pillar not two weeks later. The two, if anything, served very similar roles as back-up center fielders who could step in for Brandon Nimmo late in games or when he needed a day to rest. What Almora had that Pillar did not was an option remaining, which was valuable for the club when confronted with the roster crunch later in the year.
Almora has always been a glove-first player, so nobody was kidding themselves that he would be some sort of offensive force for the Mets. In his five years with the Cubs, he had an 85 wRC+ and a .707 OPS in 445 games. He has posted negative fWARs in his past two years after posting fWARs of 0.6, 1.2, and 1.1 in his first three years in Chicago. Once thought to be a decent part of that Cubs’ core that won the franchise’s first World Series in 108 years back in 2016, he had fallen out of favor with his old club due to his subpar performances, and he found himself non-tendered over the winter. This is how he found himself in New York for the 2021 season.
Almora made the club out of spring training as the team’s reserve outfielder alongside Pillar. As was expected, he typically entered games in the sixth inning or later as a defensive replacement, getting one at-bat at most. He went hitless in his first two at-bats in early April, both of which came against the Phillies. He got his next opportunity on April 21 at Wrigley Field, entering mid-way through a blowout loss, and collected his first hit with his new club against his old team at the ballpark he called home for the previous five years. It was a nice moment in a mostly-unmemorable season for the 27-year-old.
Almora proceeded to go hitless in his next 17 at-bats while starting three games between April 22 and May 11. As the Bench Mob was really starting to come to prominence, Almora was the weakest link among that group. Then came that May 11 game against the Orioles, where Almora was badly injured as he attempted to chase down a ball in center field to lead off the eighth. He collided with the center field wall at Citi Field and was writhing in agony on the warning track. He landed on the injured list with a right shoulder contusion, though he probably avoided a much worse fate.
He returned five weeks later and broke his hitless streak, going 2-for-3 with two doubles in his first game back, the second game of a double header against the Nationals. If you had hopes that his multi-hit performance might be a sign of things to come, you would been sorely mistaken. He went hitless in his next 16 at-bats, and was eventually optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
He would not return again until August and had another big performance at the plate in his first start against the Marlins on August 5. In that game, he matched his season total by collecting three hits, including one double. However, he came to the plate with the bases loaded and his team down by two in the ninth, and he failed to come through, instead grounding out to end the game.
Those would be the last hit(s) he would get in 2021, as he failed to record a base knock in his last seven at-bats. He endured one more stint in Triple-A, and he was eventually designated for assignment to make room for Sean Reid-Foley’s return. When the offseason began, he elected free agency, which likely puts an end to any future with the Mets, barring an unforeseen and unnecessary return.
Almora has never been the most feared hitter in the league, but his numbers for the Mets in 2021 were far below anything he has put up in his career to date. Part of this is due to his injury and a general lack of playing time, but he never really gave the Mets any reason to play him when he was healthy. In all, he collected just six hits in 52 at-bats, finishing the year with a .115/.148/.173 slash line with a -10 wRC+ and a -0.6 fWAR in 47 games. He struck out 31.5% of the time while walking just 3.5% of the time, and was typically the last person the club would call upon off the bench when needing a hit. On the bright side, his defense was as advertised, as he posted a 1 OAA in limited action this year, and was generally a steady defender when he found his way onto the field. Oh, and he also gave up three runs in his one inning pitched against the Braves on June 30.
So Almora is gone, and will likely be the type of guy that fans playing the “Can you name every member of the 2021 Mets?” Sporcle quiz will have trouble remembering. He will be the type of player who is on the tip of your tongue, but whose name never quite comes. After all, Almora was not the first outfielder whom the Mets signed only to have them come and go quickly without leaving much of a legacy, and he certainly won’t be the last.