In Albert Almora first two weeks in the show, he’s already put on quite the performance. This has left many Cubs fans wondering what the team will do with the former 1st round draft pick once Jorge Soler returns from his hamstring injury.
The decision of whether to keep Almora up or send him down to the minors is more complicated than it seems.
Keeping Almora in the bigs as a part-time player may be the most beneficial decision for the team this season, but may not be for him — or for the team’s long-term success.
There’s no doubt that his defensive capabilities would be valuable to the team. Manager Joe Maddon has proven this already, using Almora in every late-inning situation that he can. It’s tough to find a more skilled defensive outfield than one that features Jason Heyward and Almora. The philosophy is simple: keeping Almora up adds depth, giving the Cubs the best chance to win now. For a fan-base that has suffered for 107 years, this is a more-than-reasonable point of view.
Folks who side with the second school of thought wonder if a part-time role might hurt his long-term development. This ideology believes daily at-bats for Almora are necessary, and if the Cubs can’t get him in the big-league lineup each day, those on this side of the aisle believe the Cubs better send him back down to the minors. The 22-year-old made significant strides at the plate this season in Triple-A Iowa, hitting .318/.335/.444. Let him continue to blossom, they say.
This school of thought understands the benefits of him learning under veterans Heyward and Dexter Fowler, but the budding young star still needs everyday at-bats to continue to grow. It makes sense for his long-term development, which benefits the Cubs long-term success. Fair points across the board.
Further, the Cubs seem to have plenty of depth in an overcrowded lineup, which raises a worthwhile question: Do the Cubs even need him?
Make the best move for now, or the move for the future — that’s the question.
Camp C: The right one
But what if they could do both? What if the team could keep Almora on the big league club while also giving him the opportunity to develop his skills with daily ABs? They can. And they should.
This is the perfect time to trade Jorge Soler. Allow Cubs fans a moment to picture an outfield where all three players actually know how to track down a fly ball: ‘hip, hip, Jorge!’
Soler’s recent success, obvious raw talent and age (24) would make him an attractive building block for a variety of teams. In turn, this opens up the opportunity to get Almora in the daily lineup.
After a cold start to the season, Soler was heating up before suffering a hamstring injury a couple of weeks ago. In his last 15 games before his injury, he was slashing .286/.432/.514. His defensive struggles are well-documented; however, when considering his speed and arm strength, a team could see him as a work in progress. He showed his teachability at the plate by improving his approach and discipline greatly this season.
It’s not outrageous to think that he could turn his game around defensively under the right coaching. Soler would have more takers than you might think.
We’ve known all along: eventually, the Cubs would have to get rid of some of their young bats to trade for arms. There’s just not enough room on a baseball diamond for all of the talent the Cubs have — the promotion of Willson Contreras only furthers this point. It’s a fantastic problem to have, if we can even call it a problem.
So, in short, it’s time to kiss Soler goodbye.
Almora is the man for the future. And for as much talk as there’s been about his defensive prowess, he also adds a solid bat in the lineup. He’s a timely, cool-under-pressure hitter as well — his RBI doubles against the Nationals and Pirates have shown us that.
Trading Soler gives the Cubs the best of both worlds — daily at-bats will benefit Almora’s development greatly while also helping the team win now.
Both sides of the aisle are happy.