|Who needs George Springer?|
I'm Albert Freaking Almora!
I confess that my initial reaction to the news about Almora popping up on my phone was "who cares," but that was uncharitable of me. Almora is a decent CF and a good baserunner, skills which are useful for a bench player. He's a right-handed bat which, considering how skewed the Mets lineup is to the port side, is an absolute must for a fourth OF on this squad. His offensive numbers are fairly ugly, but he's hit lefties for a .280/.332/.402 line over his career. He hasn't hit them well the last two seasons, however, although it's a fairly small sample size. Look, there's at least as good of a chance that Almora doesn't hit enough to justify a spot on the active roster as of him bouncing back and being a really valuable contributor to the club, but this is the sort of relatively low-cost gamble good teams with big-boy payrolls can take.
After the previously mentioned first reaction to the deal, my next thought was to wonder if this might signal the end of any possible pursuit of Jackie Bradley Jr. While I admit that a JBJ signing is a long shot with the NL DH hanging in the air, I have to rationally conclude that it shouldn't. The Mets would still need a right-handed hitting OF on the bench with a starting OF of three lefty swingers. Joel Sherman at the New York Post still thinks JBJ is a possibility:
...[the Mets] have done so much background work on Jackie Bradley Jr. that I will continue to believe that if the designated hitter is adopted by the NL and Bradley remains a free agent at that time, the Mets will at least consider him.
In the last week, the Mets had an extended Zoom meeting with Bradley that included team president Sandy Alderson, acting GM Zack Scott, hitting coach Chili Davis and first base/outfield coach Tony Tarasco. Scott, in particular, knows Bradley well from their shared time working with the Red Sox.
I think Sherman is right but, at this point, I would be shocked to see MLB and the Players Association come to an agreement on anything before the season started, and more so if that decision would happen anytime soon enough to still bring JBJ in as the CF. From a defensive standpoint, however, it's really intriguing to imagine a Mets up-the-middle defense of James McCann, Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor and JBJ. They'll already be considerably better than they were last season even if they have to go with Brandon Nimmo in center. Replace Nimmo with a Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder and put Nimmo in LF, and run prevention will be a thing here in Queens after quite a long absence.
Unless a miracle happens and there is a National League DH in place fairly quickly, we're not likely to see JBJ patrolling CF for us this season. Even if the Mets were willing to pay Bradley Jr as a full-time player regardless of the possibility that the universal DH doesn't come back this season, he's unlikely to be willing to come here if there's a chance he's a semi-regular that's part of a rotation of players — the most likely scenario without a DH. I wouldn't want to see JBJ come to the Mets on anything longer than a 3-year deal, and he's not going to want to diminish his long-term value with a season of part-time usage when he knows he's heading back onto the market in the relatively near future.
The more interesting question to me is how the Mets go about constructing their team if there isn't a DH in 2021. One possibility could certainly be trading Nimmo and bringing in JBJ or another CF in that trade. I like Nimmo a lot, I think he's a very underrated player with a lot of the more casual fanbase, but with the right return, I could see the Mets giving him up. Barring that, however, I think Brandon Nimmo would get the bulk of the CF starts for the Mets in a DH-less 2021 season. If that happens, again barring a trade, we're likely to see a lot of LF starts by some combination of Dom Smith, J.D. Davis, and José Martínez. This, of course, is going to lead to more balls finding grass in the OF.
Having Albert Almora around as a late-inning defensive replacement will be key. I still think having someone on the bench capable to fill in both in the infield and outfield will be of great importance, also. What I'd also like to see from the Mets, if we wind up seeing sub-optimal defenders in LF and CF for a good chunk of the season, would be to try to stay on the advanced edge of positioning defenders to — in as much as possible — compensate for their lack of defensive prowess. I really do think that, over the long-term, the Mets will pivot away from giving up runs with their defense. This isn't going to happen overnight, particularly without an NL DH this season. But it's the smart way to build future Mets teams.
I'm not surprised that the Mets added Almora so quickly after the Bauer fiasco played itself out. I'd be surprised if we didn't see more moves happen this week, although it would be strictly guessing on my part to speculate on what those moves would be. Despite the disappointment over losing out on major free agents, the Mets need to put a really competitive on the field this season — perhaps even more so after losing out on Springer and Bauer. This race isn't over, folks, it's hardly even begun. Let's go Mets.
Just as I was finishing this piece I saw Joel Sherman's latest article in the New York Post concerning Trevor Bauer. Since I don't want to waste a full post on the newest Dodger, I'll only say that Sherman's reporting has me even more convinced that Bauer chickened out of coming where the expectations and pressure would be higher. Good riddance. I'm not going to waste the emotional energy to actively root against Trevor Bauer, but I wouldn't be sorry to see it go bad for the guy and the Dodgers.
One thing that did jump out at me from Sherman's piece was his mentioning that one of the plusses for LA over the Mets was the Dodgers' "modern pitching program." For sure, one of the things the Mets will have to overcome is the Wilpon's reluctance to invest in modern technology and methods. Changing this, and becoming known around baseball for embracing and investing in these tools, will only help the Mets in future offseasons when they are trying to attract a top free agent.
So long for now. Please stay safe, be well and take care.