This week the Chicago Cubs said goodbye to a pair of players that played a key role in winning the 2016 World Series. Outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora were both non-tendered by the Cubs, making each player a free agent.
We knew the 2020 off-season was going to be difficult for the Cubs, but it doesn’t make the news any easier to take. Losing Schwarber especially is something that no Cubs fan thought would ever be possible.
Theo Epstein stepped down leaving Jed Hoyer in charge, and this decision was ultimately left up to the new man in charge. There is a chance that one or both players could re-sign with the Cubs, but that feels like a pipe dream at this point.
The core of the Cubs needed to be broken up, but this breakup will take some time to get over. For all of their struggles in Chicago, each player delivered some memorable moments during their time in Chicago.
World Series Heroes
While both players had other important moments with the Chicago Cubs, none were bigger than what took place in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Schwarber led off the top of the 10th inning with a single and then was replaced by Almora as a pinch-runner.
It was Almora that made the baserunning play of the season by tagging up on a fly ball to centerfield to get to second base. It’s hard to picture the Cubs winning that game without the heroics from each player.
Schwarber became a folk hero in Chicago during the 2015 postseason as he continued to blast home runs. His ball that landed on top of the right-field scoreboard at Wrigley Field is now a permanent piece of history.
When Schwarber went down with a knee injury early in 2016 it was expected that he would miss the entire season. But like a scene straight out of a movie, he returned to the lineup in the World Series and continued to hit well.
Schwarber got better in left field for the Cubs, but his offense will always be his strength. Watching him connect for a long home run never got old for Cubs fans.
Almora was the first-ever draft pick made by Theo Epstein, and his glove always played in Chicago. The bat never improved and he became a defensive replacement in the last two seasons.
His career seemed to take a turn for the worse when a foul ball off of his bat struck a young fan in Houston in 2019. He finished that year in a downward spiral and was not any better in 2020.
Both players were expected to play roles in other deep playoff runs, but it just never happened with the Cubs. There will be a market for each team, and they could each go on to long and successful Major League careers, but it won’t happen in Chicago.
Sign of Things to Come
Getting rid of two important players from the 2016 World Series Championship team hurts, but this is only the beginning. Jed Hoyer has a mess in front of him, and he will be making a number of other tough decisions moving forward.
Kris Bryant is probably the next player to go, and his loss will be even more devastating than losing Schwarber and Almora. Change isn’t fun, but it was needed for the Chicago Cubs.
You can bet that both Schwarber and Almora will receive big ovations when they return to Wrigley Field and fans will reflect on the great run in 2016. Losing both players hurts, but it was inevitable.
I’ll end with saying thank you to both players as they will always be World Champions with the Chicago Cubs. Best of luck, and you will be missed.