A number of people don’t much care for the concept of the “replacement player.” One reason is rhetorical: replacement players are really good baseball players! This troubles some people, though it really shouldn’t. John Smoltz is a great golfer, but he is far short of the level of performance needed to play on the senior tour.
Abraham Almonte is a replacement level player. In 9 years with six teams, he had exactly 1 season in excess of 1 WAR (1.1, in 2015 with the then-Indians) and the rest of his career between -0.8 and 0.7 WAR. Since WAR is a counting stat, it’s hard to get (or lose) a lot of WAR if you don’t play much. Almonte has never had 200 plate appearances in a season.
Last year, Abraham Almonte was brought in to replace Marcell Ozuna. He played left field for June and July. When the new outfield was acquired, he only once had more than one at-bat in a game. This is essentially proof that he was playing left field in June and July because we had no one else to do it. He accumulated -0.8 WAR in that time, the worst season of his career.
But Abraham Almonte is not a bad baseball player. He’s only a forgettable player when compared with really good baseball players. His high water mark in his entire 9 year career (by cWPA) came on July 28th, just before he became completely expendable. Down 2-1 in the top of the 9th, leading off against the Mets Edwin Diaz, he hit a double to put the tying run on second base. He was stranded when Heredia, Adrianza and Sandoval made outs, although that was the Panda’s last really good stroke… a line drive snagged in the gap in his penultimate at-bat that would have tied the game had it dropped. So the Braves lost that game, as they did so many in which they were hoping for greatness from Almonte, Heredia, Adianza and Sandoval. But that double had a cWPA of 0.25%. The fact that it didn’t lead to a win says a lot about the Braves’ midseason woes. The fact that the single most important play in your career (per cWPA) actually doesn’t contribute to your team’s chances at all is more than a little poignant.
Almonte is a free agent. If you’re looking to tread water while someone is recovering from an injury, or waiting for the real reinforcements to arrive, he’s about as good as anyone else could be. Good for him.