After missing last month on the top free-agent center field possibility on the market, the Mets on Sunday added protection at the position.
Albert Almora agreed to terms on a one-year deal, an industry source confirmed, bringing strong defense to the position, behind Brandon Nimmo, in the same kind of role Jake Marisnick was supposed to fill last season.
The 26-year-old Almora slashed .167/.265/.200 in 28 games for the Cubs last season. He bats right-handed.
Almora’s addition comes after the Mets’ failed pursuit of George Springer, who joined the Blue Jays on a six-year contract worth $150 million. The Mets were also pursuing Jackie Bradley Jr., but the contract length the veteran outfielder was seeking, in addition to the unclarity surrounding the DH position may have sidetracked his candidacy.
If the universal DH is not approved for this season – the topic remains a sticking point as MLB seeks agreement from the players on an expanded postseason in return for implementing the rule – the Mets in all likelihood will keep Dominic Smith as the primary left fielder with Nimmo in center. If the DH is implemented, Pete Alonso would likely fill that role, moving Smith to first base and giving Almora additional opportunities to play center with Nimmo shifted to left.
The Mets acquired Marisnick in a trade with Houston before last season with the same idea of reducing Nimmo’s workload in center, where he is a below average player, according to most metrics. But Marisnick battled hamstring injuries and appeared in only 16 games for the Mets during the pandemic-shortened season. Marisnick was among the free-agent possibilities available on the market, along with Kevin Pillar. The Mets also considered Juan Lagares, who signed a minor league deal with the Angels over the weekend after a strong performance in the Caribbean League this winter. Another detriment to signing Bradley – despite his superior glove – is the fact he bats left-handed, and the Mets already have Michael Conforto, Nimmo and potentially Smith as lefty-swingers in the outfield.
Almora recorded three outs above average in 2019, according to Baseball Savant, placing him the 81st percentile among outfielders.
The Mets, following Trevor Bauer’s decision to sign with the Dodgers, could still look to bolster the rotation and third base.
Free-agent pitchers available include Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton and Jake Arrieta. The Mets spoke to the Cubs about Kris Bryant earlier this offseason, but it’s unclear if Chicago would consider trading the former All-Star third baseman.