Sandy Alderson and the Mets on Sunday continued one of Brodie Van Wagenen’s finest traditions: adding a glove-first, righthanded-hitting centerfielder to complement Brandon Nimmo.
This year’s version is Albert Almora Jr., who agreed to a one-year deal, a source confirmed, pending a physical. Almora was a free agent — cut by the Cubs in December — so unlike with the previous iterations, the Mets did not need to give up mildly interesting prospects to add him.
Almora’s specific role isn’t clear. In the cases of Keon Broxton in 2019 and Jake Marisnick in 2020, their job was to enter in the late innings as a defensive replacement and occasionally start against lefthanded pitchers.
Almora, 26, once was a top-100 prospect but never developed the way the Cubs hoped.
Although he was about league-average as a hitter in his first two years (2016-17), he has regressed every season since then, batting .261 with a .299 OBP and .373 slugging percentage from 2018-20. He has been slightly better against lefthanders than righthanders.
Last year, Almora was bad enough that the Cubs sent him to their alternate training site for the second half of the season. He still can be optioned to the minors and is not scheduled to reach free agency until after the 2022 season.
The Mets’ history of success for this type of acquisition is not high. Broxton was with the Mets for less than two months before complaining about playing time and getting cut. Marisnick was on the injured list twice in two months during the abbreviated 2020 season, playing in only 16 games.
For most of the offseason, the Mets had hoped to make a much bigger splash in centerfield. But when George Springer signed with the Blue Jays last month and the next best free-agent option, Jackie Bradley Jr., reportedly wanted a four-year contract, they opted for a much cheaper player.
Without the DH in the NL (at least for now), the Mets have penciled in a sub-optimal defensive alignment: Nimmo in center, Dominic Smith in left and Pete Alonso at first. Substituting Almora would allow them to shift to their better positions: leftfield for Nimmo and first base for Smith.
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