clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The biggest Albert Almora Jr. fan who’s OK with how often the Cubs play him

One of Almora's three hits Saturday.

LOS ANGELES — Agent Scott Boras has spent years taking shots at Cubs ownership for some of its spending practices.

He loudly criticized the Cubs in 2015 for their decision to start client Kris Bryant in the minors to secure an extra year of club control.

And there’s no way you’ll convince him Yu Darvish was a better free-agent bet than Jake Arrieta, another client.

So you can imagine what he thinks about Albert Almora Jr.’s playing time. Or not.

Turns out the man who targeted Almora as a high-profile client before the Cubs targeted him as a first-round draft pick might be the one fan of the Cubs’ Gold Glove-caliber center fielder with less criticism about his playing time than any of the rest.

‘‘Put it this way,’’ Boras said of Cubs manager Joe Maddon and his practices. ‘‘I’ve never had a player not do well under him. That goes back a long time. I let him run his show his way, and it usually works out pretty well for both.’’

When Almora went 3-for-3 during the Cubs’ 14-9 victory Saturday against the Twins, he took over the National League lead in batting average for a few hours. At .331, Almora trailed the Reds’ Scooter Gennett by a point entering action Monday.

As much as fans continue to cry out for more playing time for Almora — and as much as Almora wants all he can get — it’s worth noting he played in 28 of the Cubs’ 29 games in June, starting 20.

He’s Maddon’s most frequent choice in the Cubs’ leadoff rotation (21-12 in his starts there), and his playing time is increasing as the season progresses. His recent days off have been about rest as much as rotating others into the lineup.

In fact, only Javy Baez (80) has played in more games than Almora (77) this season and only Kyle Schwarber (291) and Jason Heyward (266) have more plate appearances among outfielders than Almora (262).

RELATED STORIES

Cubs fans tie the knot with wedding at Wrigley Field

Three true outcomes taking action out of baseball

‘‘It’s remarkable,’’ Maddon said of Almora’s breakout season. ‘‘He’s ascended versus right-handed pitching. That’s really the part that’s getting him over the top.’’

Almora’s not sure he’s doing anything differently against right-handers beyond seeing more of them as his playing time has increased. And while the increase still isn’t enough for the aspiring All-Star, his approach to the platoon role at the start of the season might be at least a small factor in his success.

‘‘I put my head down and play the game as hard as I can when I get the chance,’’ Almora said. ‘‘That’s all I can ask for.’’

Boras has been an ally to the Cubs in that process, contrary to the common narrative that casts him as a nonstop foil and villain to baseball front offices.

<em>Boras</em>
Boras

‘‘When you’re on a winning team and you have a role, you make sure you don’t say much,’’ Boras said. ‘‘He’s got a [World Series] ring, and now he’s earning his way. This is a winning organization they’re running, rather than a development organization. For Albert, that’s something that probably cost him at-bats, but it’s well in line with what winning organizations do.’’

That’s not to say Boras doesn’t think Almora, 24, has an extreme upside.

‘‘I think Albert has earned his way to being a starting player in the big leagues because he’s shown the offensive capacity and the defensive capacity to do it,’’ Boras said, citing Almora’s .826 OPS, compared with many other elite defensive players at his position, who often are closer to .700.

‘‘So he’s got the chance to be a star player. But teams have to manage their players. I can sit there and look at the stats and tell you he has proven himself, that he’s playing at a level that few center fielders in the big leagues are playing. He’s had enough playing time and at-bats to illustrate that it would place him on that level.’’

But that’s where Boras stops. No pushing or prodding from one of the most proactive agents in baseball.

Boras and Almora went to lunch last week in Los Angeles during the Cubs’ series there.

‘‘He told me the same things,’’ Almora said. ‘‘He said: ‘We’ll talk about this 10 years from now [as a positive].’ I said: ‘For sure, you’re probably right. But right now, the competitor in me wants to be in there every day.’ Obviously, that’s everybody. That’s not just me.’’