Seeing the reactions to the Mets hiring of Luis Rojas, you think people have confused the lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s anthem to be, “If you can’t make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
From Keith Hernandez to other media members, Rojas was met with skepticism because he’s never managed at the Major League level. We see responses this job required a veteran manager, as we saw with many, like ESPN‘s Chris Carlin, “This isn’t supposed to be the place where you learn.”
Even with Carlin taking a beating from Mets players like Pete Alonso and Marcus Stroman for his criticisms of Rojas, it’s fair to say Carlin wasn’t alone in that position. Overall, there is a prevailing notion New York is not a place where you can hire a new manager or coach and expect him to succeed.
This is complete and utter nonsense, and there are plenty of examples which prove it.
In 1984, the Mets hired Davey Johnson to be their manager. He had a similar managerial background to Rojas, and he would also usher in the greatest stretch in Mets history.
In 1995, after Pat Riley resigned from the Knicks, the team moved quickly to hire Don Nelson, who was about as poor a fit as you could have for the Knicks roster. He was replaced by Jeff Van Gundy, who proved to be one of the best head coaches in Knicks history.
The New York Giants had success and went to a Super Bowl under Jim Fassel, who had no previous head coaching experience, and the team flopped under Pat Shurmur, who had previous head coaching experience with the Cleveland Browns.
Obviously, there are examples in the reverse.
Bobby Valentine was a terrific manager for the Mets. Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls with the Giants. John Tortorella brought the New York Rangers back to prominence.
Therein lies the point.
New York isn’t just a tough place to play or manage. It is a place which demands the best. Somehow along the way, people have misinterpreted that to say you need people who have failed elsewhere.
Both Baker and Showalter are justifiably respected baseball men. They’ve developed players and in many instances outperformed expectations in each and every stop. If you hire either one of them, you’re in very good hands, and you’re lucky to have them.
One thing with both of them is they’ve yet to win a World Series. You don’t hear that now, but it’s something you’ll hear if the Mets are fortunate enough to be in the postseason.
The point there is narratives shift and emerge as fit. If Dusty or Buck came to the Mets and won, they’d be a great story about finally winning. If they didn’t win, we’d hear how neither can win the big one, and the Mets need to move on from a manager who lifted Russ Ortiz too soon or one who didn’t use Zack Britton.
Even the best of managers available have their flaws. Ultimately, that’s why they’re available. The best any team can do, be it a New York team or a team anywhere else, is look at the candidates and make the best decision possible.
That can be someone like Buck or Dusty, and it can be someone like Rojas. For the Mets, they rightfully opted on the manager who knows this team inside and out, has their respect, and has shown he can get the most out of their talent. This is very similar to when the Mets hired Davey Johnson, who was not a retread, but rather, a first time Major League manager.
Ultimately, with Johnson, Parcells, Coughlin, and Van Gundy, and everyone else who has passed through this city, we’ve learned the only qualifications which matter for a manager or head coach is who is the most talented and who is the best fit for the roster.
Any other consideration is just noise, and oft times results in a mistake.
Rojas has been a minor league manager in the Mets system for seven years, and he was the quality control manager this past season. He has the respect of everyone in the organization, the deepest of roots in the game, and he has had a hand in the success of the core of this Mets roster.
He’s also managed prospects like Andres Gimenez who could debut this upcoming season. Overall, this speaks not just to Rojas’ knowledge of the personnel, but also his ability to get the most out of these players.
This is why it’s being widely reported this is a very popular hire in the Mets clubhouse. It should be a popular hire with everyone.
This is a manager from the Alou family tree. That’s important with his father Felipe Alou being a longtime manager, and his brother, Moises Alou, having played for the Mets. With them, he not only had someone to lean on in terms of managing a team, but also, on the unique challenges of New York. Of course, Rojas can lean on his own experiences for that as well.
As the Quality Control Coach, he’s well versed in analytics, and he’s had communication with the front office about using them, and also, what the front office expectations are. He’s also spent the past year further developing and strengthening relations with everyone in the clubhouse, and really, the entire organization.
Lost in the shuffle last year was Rojas working with McNeil to become an everyday outfielder. In 2019, McNeil was an All-Star, and he had a 2 DRS in the outfield.
When you break it down, this is a hard working individual who is able to get the most out of the players on this team. With his being bilingual, he can talk baseball in any language. No matter what angle you look at this from, Rojas was the perfect hire for this team. That goes double when you consider he’s one of the few holdovers from Callaway’s staff at a time the Mets desperately need some continuity.
Overall, the Mets took a terrible situation, and they made the most of it hiring the person who very likely should have been hired in November. Rojas is the best man for this job, and the 2020 Mets will be better for having him at the helm.
If the Mets really want to flip the script and get people excited about this team, perhaps they should make a bold and daring decision when hiring a manager to replace Carlos Beltran.
With Baker and Showalter, you’re getting a manager who is a name which should drive up some excitement with Mets fans. They’re also established managers with a very good track record of success. More than that, they’re respected throughout the game.
Mostly, with Baker or Showalter, you get instant credibility. Of course, they’re also older managers, especially Baker, so they’re presumably very short term fixes. Although, Showalter could presumably be around longer.
In the end, if the Mets are going to go the route of a short-term fix who will excite the fanbase and give the team some instant credibility, why don’t they see if Davey Johnson would like to return to manage the Mets in 2020?
Johnson has the most wins as a manager in Mets history (595), and his .588 winning percentage remains the best all-time. To put into perspective of how dominant a run he and the Mets had in the 1980s, that winning percentage equates to a 95 win team, which unlike the 1980s all but ensures a postseason berth.
No, hiring Johnson doesn’t guarantee 95 wins. However, it speaks to what Johnson did with extremely talented Mets teams. The 2020 Mets could be one of those teams with Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, and Noah Syndergaard.
Johnson is also no stranger to handling intense media scrutiny during a season. After all, he was the Mets manager when Keith Hernandez was dealing with the drug trials, and Dwight Gooden was suspended for cocaine.
No, Davey wasn’t perfect, but he was good. For his faults, he was a players manager who has always been open to using data and analytics to make the best decisions possible. As evidenced by Bryce Harper speaking well of him, even at his age, he’s been able to reach the modern player.
When you look at it, it’s Johnson’s age which could be the biggest impediment. Typically speaking, you don’t see many 76 year old managers, not unless they are team legends like Jack McKeon (Marlins).
However, as a short term fix, you’d be surprised if the Mets found Johnson’s age to be an impediment to his being a 1-2 year stopgap. After all, this is the same team who elevated 82 year old Phil Regan to be their interim pitching coach last year.
The real issue with Johnson’s age is whether at 76 he wants to manage again.
Back in 2014, after he was fired by the Nationals, he said, “If someone called me and said, ‘You wanna work?’ ” Johnson said, “I’d look at it and maybe take it. I might. It would have to be a big challenge.” (James Wagner, The Washington Post).
Recently, Johnson wrote a book entitled Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond, which at least sounded like a coda to his career in baseball. His interview with Mathew Brownstein of MMO also gave that impression.
Still, his co-author, Erik Sherman told The Hardball Times, “Yes, I think Davey would have liked to keep managing for a while longer. He still watches Nationals games on television whenever he can.”
We also saw Johnson not get elected into the Hall of Fame. While he says he doesn’t care that much about that, being passed over may still sting, and he may want to find his way into Cooperstown. One great year with the 2020 Mets could do that.
In the end, the Mets are in an almost impossible situation. They don’t have a manager with less than a month before Spring Training begins. Their credibility has taken yet another massive hit, and no matter who they hire, that new manager is going to face intense scrutiny and be a referendum on the front office.
Hiring a veteran manager could help insulate the Mets from criticism, and a veteran manager can handle some of the messaging and deflect some of the negativity. Ideally, that manager could create excitement for the fanbase.
If he wants the job, and the Mets are willing to go in that direction, Davey Johnson could be everything the Mets and their fans need and want from their manager. If nothing else, that should at least prompt a phone call.
For better or worse, the Mets felt compelled to fire Carlos Beltran before he even managed a game. Accepting the Mets at face value, they were blindsided by this, and they believed this was the best thing to do for the organization.
Hanging over the organization right now is who is going to be the next manager? The longer that question lingers, the worse the Mets look, so it would behoove them to act quickly.
On the one hand, the Mets already did their homework. Beltran was one of several candidates they interviewed, and in the case of Eduardo Perez, some of the very good candidates considered are still available.
However, with all due respect to those candidates, including Perez who could be a good manager, the Mets put their vetting of external candidates for the position when they said in their conference call they were unaware of the widely reported sign stealing reports and rumors, and they did not investigate it nor ask candidates like Beltran about it.
Regardless of the quality of their vetting, the Mets went out and built an entire MLB staff under the presumption Beltran was going to be the manager. More than that, this is a group who has already been working together and formulating plans for Spring Training and the regular season.
It would at least seem an external hire would be counter-productive. This late in the game you would not want anyone reinventing the wheel. Furthermore, a new hire would like some say about a staff which has already been completely filled.
To that end, the Mets best course of action is to hire someone already on the staff. Looking at the staff as it is assembled, the best candidate by far is Luis Rojas.
First and foremost, Rojas has already managed the Mets core. In his time in the minors, he served as a minor league manager for Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, and others.
Rojas has had a hand in their development and success. Moreover, they respect him.
Looking at the complete roster, Rojas was one of the holdovers from Mickey Callaway‘s staff. In his role as quality control coach, he was a liaison between the front office and the clubhouse handling strategy, preparation, and utilization of analytics.
Rojas is already aware of the front office expectations are, has dealt with them on a daily basis, and he’s developed relationships with the Mets players.
On the latter point, Tim Healey of Newsday reports, “The Mets promoting Luis Rojas to manager would go over very well in the clubhouse.”
Overall, when looking at Rojas, it’s the smoothest possible transition. He’s respected by the front office and clubhouse, and he’s seen my many to be someone who could be a very good manager one day. Looking at it from that perspective, he’s the natural choice.
That said we should all be keenly aware the Mets didn’t hire him. In fact, he wasn’t even a finalist for the managerial position.
Presumably, whatever issues led the Mets to believe Rojas was not the best candidate for the job still exist. To that extent, it would not be the best decision to name Rojas the manager when the team had some reservations about his being the manager in 2020.
Taking that and everything into consideration, the Mets should name Rojas as the interim manager.
After all, anyone who is named now should be named as an interim. As noted, the Mets vetting had its issues, and they’re going to hire someone to lead a staff they had no input in its choosing.
Moreover, this is late in the game. In many ways, this is not much different than Beltran having been fired mid-season. In those circumstances, teams routinely name an interim manager so they can conduct a full scale search for a manager in the offseason.
Perhaps, the Mets should be doing that anyway as they will have a new majority owner at some point during the 2020 season.
As it pertains to Rojas, the decision has its benefits. It allows him to prove himself with some of the heat taken off. There will be fewer articles about the Mets rushing the process to hire someone who might not have been ready, and instead, there will be more of a focus on how he improves. Ideally, at some point, there will be articles about how the Mets should remove the interim tag.
Ultimately, the Mets firing Beltran has had them lose who they thought was the best man for the job. Other candidates like Derek Shelton have accepted positions elsewhere. This is a bad situation which can be made worse by rushing the process and hiring the wrong guy.
Accordingly, the best course of action is the smoothest transition possible with Rojas at the helm with an opportunity to prove he’s truly the man for the job.
Like it has been for most of their history, the Mets are currently build on starting pitching. That presents a problem for this organization because they will soon be in the unenviable position of having to rebuild their rotation over the ensuing few offseasons.
The Mets will have to face the same exact situation the ensuing offseason as both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season. That means over the course two years, the Mets are going to have to address how they want to handle 80% of their starting rotation.
Complicating matters is Michael Conforto hitting free agency the same time as Syndergaard and Matz as well as the shallow upper parts of the Mets farm system. How the Mets choose to address their rotation will be vitally important as Jacob deGrom has an opt out after the 2022 season.
After that 2022 season, Brandon Nimmo will be a free agent, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil will be first time arbitration eligible, and Amed Rosario will be heading into his last season under team control. This means the Mets core is going to be quite expensive and on their way out to parts unknown over the next few seasons.
At this point, we should all be wondering what exactly is the plan here.
At times, the Mets seem all-in. We saw that not just with trading away prospects to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, but we also saw that with the Mets trading away prospects like Blake Taylor, Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Adam Hill for what amounted to be nothing more than complementary pieces.
On the other hand, the Mets don’t see remotely all-in when they fail to address the back-up catching situation and let Zack Wheeler, their second best pitcher over the past two years, leave the Mets to go to the Philadelphia Phillies. Couple that with the Mets not making a push for players like Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado, or being active on the trade market for players like Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, or Francisco Lindor, this seems more and more like a team without a clear direction.
Now, part of that can just be a result of how ineptly the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen have run this organization. Another aspect can be this team being in a relative holding pattern until Steve Cohen’s purchase of the club is finalized and approved. There may be other factors at play, and really, at this point, we are all just guessing.
What we do know is based on the control over the current core, the Mets window to compete for a World Series is right now, and the team has done little to push the team over the top. We also know that until this core is extended, the Mets window is going to be limited to just these two years.
When you look at things through this prism, you see the need to give extensions to at least some of your core. Certainly, that is the case when the goal is sustained winning and not just short windows. In theory, there is still 10 months to do that, but at the moment, the Mets have missed their biggest and perhaps best opportunity to do it once again leaving the impression this is an organization without a clear direction.
In 2017, in a somewhat surprising move, the New York Rangers made Lias Andersson the seventh overall selection in the draft. He was supposed to be the first big move in a Rangers rebuild, and to some he was touted as a future Captain of the Rangers who could led the team to their first Stanley Cup since 1995.
So far, it hasn’t panned out that way, and worse yet, things only seem to get worse and worse.
Andersson struggled in his first year, but he seemed to learn some lessons from it. During training camp, he seemed to prove himself and earned a spot on the roster to open the 2019-2020 season. The optimism quickly soured with him not producing and the ensuing debate/drama over his being on the fourth line.
This entire situation led to Andersson being demoted to the AHL, where he again struggled. Eventually, Andersson demanded a trade and all together up and left the Rangers. Since that time, there was an active debate over handling of him and other prospects as well as Andersson on how he handled the situation.
Recently, Andersson opened up about what has transpired. In an interview translated by Blueshirt Banter, Andersson talked about how he is struggling:
There has been many incidents, but I can’t divulge everything, I will do that at a later stage. There has been many incidents that has hurt me on a personal level, things that has made me struggle mentally. In regards to hockey this might be an idiotic decision but I have to think about my private life too.”, Lias falls silent, “I feel like I have lost the hunger and drive for [hockey] at the moment – and all these incidents has affected me. I feel like I have to get this under control first and foremost.
Since the interview, we have learned more about the situation. Andersson was apparently skating on two injured feet, and there have been unspoken incidents which have troubled him. Another important note here is Andersson’s father has been clear this is not some temper tantrum about his demotion to the AHL.
Andersson is struggling with something, is dealing with injuries, and he is not yet ready to talk about it.
With hockey uncovering some bullying issues, especially from coaches, there has been some speculation as to what happened with Andersson with some of it being irresponsible. Still without quite knowing what happened with Andersson, there is a lesson to be learned here about how teams handle prospects.
Before going further, there is an interesting baseball parallel here with Dominic Smith of the Mets.
Smith was drafted by the Mets with the 11th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Since that time, we saw Smith show the tools to be a good Major League player, but there was a narrative emerging about his being overweight and lazy. In terms of his being overweight, you could see it despite his spending much of his offseasons dedicated to getting into shape.
As for the lazy part, aside from it being a byproduct of how some view overweight people, Smith would oversleep and report late to the first Spring Training game of the 2018 season. That seemed to be the final nail in his coffin as the Mets first baseman of the future.
After that point, the Mets went forward with Adrian Gonzalez to start the 2018 season. After they moved on from Gonzalez, the Mets looked to Wilmer Flores, a player they would non-tender after the season, at first base. All-in-all, they never gave Smith a chance to succeed, and eventually without a real direct competition, Smith was passed on the depth chart by Pete Alonso.
After the 2018 season, we discovered Smith had been battling sleep apnea. With it finally being properly diagnosed and treated, we not only saw Smith stay in shape for the entirety of the 2019 season, but we would also see him become an impactful player with a 133 wRC+.
With Smith, you are really left wondering how things would have been different had the team handled his development differently. It is the same exact situation with Andersson.
In recent years, it is becoming increasingly clear teams are not devoting enough time and resources to the actual development of players. While we see teams increasingly looking towards analytics and conditioning to help develop and improve their players, we are not hearing enough about teams looking to help players develop mentally, and/or learn to better handle themselves as professionals.
Many times, we hear about how this manager, coach, or veteran is going to take a certain player under their wing and help them fulfill their full potential. Looking at the Mets, we actually heard Edwin Diaz speak about his problems handling New York, and he was looking forward to new manager Carlos Beltran helping him better handle the city in 2020.
While a manager is supposed to be there to help, players need more, especially when a manager has to handle a roster of 25 players, a full coaching staff, speak with the media, and deal with the front office. It’s too much for any manager to handle players like a Smith or Andersson who are clearly struggling and need the help the team is ill equipped to provide.
The help can come in the form of a mental skills or life coach for the team. Perhaps every team should have a form of a stipend to help players seek the personal help they need but really cannot afford as prospects. Perhaps leagues need to have an ombudsman of sorts to visit minor leaguers to investigate how teams are being run and why they aren’t meeting their goals.
Point is, the Rangers have effectively lost a very talented hockey player in Andersson to something which might have been avoidable. The Mets almost missed out on Smith having a productive career for trying to turn what was a physical ailment into a mental problem. Clearly, these organizations and others are very ill-equipped to handle the mental and life skills issues of players, and as a result, we are seeing players not even be allowed to be put in a good position to reach their full potential.
That is a very real and significant problem. What makes it worse is it is avoidable, and it is time someone starts focusing on how to help these players instead of trying to tell them and everyone else what is wrong with them because clearly, they have no idea.
While Brodie Van Wagenen was touting Dellin Betances‘ ability to “blow the cover off their ceiling,” the fact of the matter is the Mets offseason has been tremendously underwhelming thus far. Really, when you break it down, it’s difficult to ascertain how this team can make up 11 games on the Atlanta Braves.
With Zack Wheeler departing for the Philadelphia Phillies, that’s 4.1 WAR going to a division rival. While they haven’t yet signed with another team, it is expected Todd Frazier (2.2 WAR) and Juan Lagares (-0.7) will sign with other teams.
Combined, that’s a 5.6 WAR.
As a result, the Mets have yet to replace the production they’ve lost. What makes this problematic is their offseason appears fairly set.
Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie are taking up two roster spots, and with their salaries, the Mets are not going to just cut bait. Instead, the Mets are going to hope Cespedes can do what Troy Tulowitzki couldn’t do – return from double heel surgery.
When they finally discover what was wrong with Lowrie that limited him to eight pinch hitting attempts last year, we can then have a conversation about what, if anything, he can contribute.
Remember, this a Mets team which finished 11 games behind the Braves. They also finished behind the World Series Champion Washington Nationals too. The Mets needed to gain ground, not lose it.
Keep in mind, they’re not just losing grounds to the teams ahead of them, they are also losing it to the Philadelphia Phillies. That 4.1 WAR the Mets lost in Wheeler went to the Phillies. Joining him there is Didi Gregorius, who had a 0.6 WAR in limited duty. When you add a healthy Andrew McCutchen, they have not only offset the 1.7 WAR they lost with Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco, but they have improved upon it.
Now, this is where someone may want to point out how the Braves and Nationals are both searching for a new third baseman, and that the third basemen they had last year were their best players. That is true. The Braves losing Josh Donaldson (6.1), and the Nationals losing Anthony Rendon (6.3) were significant losses.
With respect to Donaldson, it should be noted both teams are still in on him and trying to do all they can to sign him. If either team signs him, that narrative is no longer in place as it comes to that team.
Going beyond that, both the Braves and Nationals have made moves to bolster their teams in the event they cannot land Donaldson.
The Nationals have been aggressive this offseason re-signing mid-season acquisitions Asdrubal Cabrera and Daniel Hudson. They have also added Starlin Castro (0.8), Eric Thames (1.6), and Will Harris (2.1). Combine that with the anticipation Carter Kieboom may be ready next year, and the Nationals have at least braced themselves for losing Rendon and missing out on Donaldson.
The Braves have also left third base open while addressing other areas. On the bullpen front, they have brought in Will Smith (2.2) while bringing back Chris Martin and Darren O’Day. They have also added Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate. They also potentially upgraded their rotation signing Cole Hamels to replace Dallas Keuchel.
When talking about the Braves, they also have a wealth of young talent in Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, Mike Soroka, and others to close the gap on the potential loss of Donaldson. The same can be said with the Nationals with Juan Soto and Victor Robles.
As for the Mets, they could also seek to get some help internally with Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario taking the next step. However, the issue with that is whether it is enough to overcome not just the diminution in the talent the team had last year, but also whether it is enough to overcome the significant gap which already existed between them and the rest of the teams in the division.
While it is certainly possible the Mets can win the division in 2020, it is also fair to say they certainly have not done nearly enough this offseason to do that. Really, when you boil it down, the Mets are relying more on luck than anything else. Considering what is ahead and behind them in the division, that is not the best plan, and when you boil it down, they really needed more than just Marisnick.
Unless you are the Los Angeles Angels with Mike Trout or maybe the Boston Red Sox with Mookie Betts, no baseball team can definitively say they have a better player on their team than Nolan Arenado. Since 2015, he has been a top eight player in the league in terms of fWAR, and he has been a top six player in terms of DRS.
Arenado has won seven straight Gold Gloves, been an All-Star for five straight seasons, and he has won a Silver Slugger in four of the last five seasons. It should come as no surprise he has been a top five finisher in the MVP voting over that five year stretch.
Arenado has proven himself to be the rare player who has the ability to impact the game in the field and at the plate. He is one of the best in the sport, a future Hall of Famer, and at 28 years old, he is in his prime. When players like this are available, you do everything you can do to acquire them.
That should include the Mets.
If Arenado was on the Mets in 2020, his 5.7 WAR would have been the best on the team. To that end, the Mets have not had a position player have a WAR over 5.0 since Juan Lagares in 2014, and they have not had a position player with a WAR better than Arenado’s 5.7 since David Wright had a 5.9 WAR in 2013.
If you think about it, that’s what Arenado is. Both are Gold Glove caliber and Silver Slugger players who are top 10 players in the sport. The key difference is Arenado is healthy and playing now. When players like Wright come along, and Arenado is that level of player, you do what you can to get him.
When you look at the Mets roster as a whole, the only player they have better than Arenado right now is Jacob deGrom. When you consider deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he is signed to a very reasonable contract extension, you cannot trade him for Arenado.
Any other pitcher on the Mets roster, Noah Syndergaard included, can and should be considered in a potential Arenado trade.
As for the rest of the Mets team, you can and should consider trading all of them if the price is right.
Yes, that means you should consider trading players like Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. It would hurt to lose either player, but you will have one entrenched in one of the corner outfield spots, and you can move Jeff McNeil to LF on a permanent basis to accommodate that loss.
For what it is worth, the Mets should be willing to trade McNeil for Arenado as well. After all, Arenado is a better baseball player than McNeil, and if you’re going to choose between the two as who you want to be your third baseman for the next five years, you are going to chose Arenado.
Finally, yes, you can also consider trading Pete Alonso. If the Mets traded Alonso for Arenado, they still have Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis (who is really only just a first baseman) to play first. At the end of the day, you hate losing Alonso who has proven to be not just a very good player, but also one who has captured the hearts and minds as Mets fans.
That said, Arenado is a better baseball player than Alonso. More to the point, the Mets are a better team with Smith/Davis at first, Arenado at third, and an outfield of McNeil-Nimmo-Conforto than have a team where they either play Jake Marisnick everyday or have a platoon of first basemen in left field.
They’re also a better team with Alonso and Arenado at the corners. To that end, if you can swing a deal without giving up Alonso, or any of their other core players which include Conforto, McNeil, Nimmo, and Syndergaard, you do it. The problem is the Mets don’t necessarily have that farm system after all the damage Brodie Van Wagenen did last offseason.
To that end, if the Rockies want a player the ilk of Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Andres Gimenez, Matthew Allan, Brett Baty, or whomever else the Rockies inquire, the Mets should be willing to listen. Of course, if the Rockies want to go this route, the caliber of Major League player the Mets should be willing to part in such a trade comes down a significant peg from the aforementioned core.
Now, it should be noted Arenado has an opt out after the 2021 season. If you are the Mets, you don’t disrupt your core without getting him to waive that or renegotiate the contract. That is where Steve Cohen and his money should hopefully come into play.
If the Mets can get Arenado to waive his no trade clause and opt in to his contract, short of Jacob deGrom, there is no one the Mets should not discuss in a trade because at the end of the day, the Mets do not have a player as good as the one Nolan Arenado is.
Looking at the Mets offseason thus far, they didn’t do much of anything to address the needs they have. The lineup is effectively the same. That means a team who had a National League worst -93 DRS will have to hope the defense improves and improves drastically with the talent already on the roster getting significantly better.
That puts the focus directly on Amed Rosario.
Right before he was called up to the Majors, John Sickels, then of Minor League Ball, noted Rosario was a gifted defender noting he is a “superior defender with plus arm strength, range, instincts.” The anticipation was while he may struggle a bit offensively, he was going to be a plus defender who could one day win a Gold Glove.
So far, that has not happened. In each of his two full Major League seasons, he has posted a -16 DRS. Since his Major League debut on August 1, 2017, he has a career -31 DRS. That makes him the second worst defensive shortstop in the majors, and he is also just the third worst defender in all of basball.
It is of no small coincidence that over that time frame Mets pitchers have yielded the ninth highest BABIP in the majors despite their inducing the softest contact. It is one of the reasons why the Mets have a 4.13 FIP (ninth best) while having a 4.32 ERA (16th best) over that stretch.
This is an issue which appears like it is poised to be exacerbated. In 2020, the Mets will have a full season of Marcus Stroman who has a career 2.61 GB/FB. Replacing Zack Wheeler in the rotation will be sinkerball pitcher Rick Porcello with his 1.48 GB/FB. This is going to put a premium on infield defense, which is problematic given Rosario’s early career defensive struggles.
The good news is Rosario took a significant step forward in 2019. The -16 DRS he amassed last year was all from the first half of the season. After the All-Star Break, the eye test said Rosario was much better than that, and the numbers bore that out with his having a 0 DRS.
While not entirely Rosario dependent and the issues with small sample sizes at play, we saw a real impact on the pitching staff. In the first half, Mets pitchers had a .311 BABIP, which was the third worst in the Majors. In the second half, the BABIP dropped to .296, which was the 13th best in the Majors. That had a significant impact the pitching staff which went from a 4.88 ERA to a 3.48.
That’s part of the reason the Mets went from 10 games under .500 to a 46-26 (.639) record in the second half. Another reason was Rosario’s breakout offensively. After an 88 wRC+ in the first half, which was on par with his then career 84 wRC+, he had a 114 wRC+ in the second half.
Again, while many factors were at play, Rosario’s emergence on both side of the ball played a key role in the Mets resurgence. With his hitting, the Mets had more than just Pete Alonso to provide balance to a lineup who counts on production from mostly left-handed hitters. And again, the defense really helped turn hits into outs.
For the Mets to once again be the team they were in the second half, they will need Rosario to be that player. Considering the team not adding a center fielder, and their new focus on ground ball pitching, this makes Rosario the key to the season. Fortunately, we have seen Rosario is capable of being that type of player, and more than that, with his being just 24, we know he is capable of doing more.
As this decade closes out at midnight today, the Mets will actually enter their seventh decade of baseball. Before proceeding forward, let’s take a look at the best moments from each year of this decade:
On the field, it was Angel Pagan hitting an inside-the-park home run and starting a triple play in the same game.
In a moment no one saw coming, Chris Capuano had a two hit shutout where he struck out 13:
This was the year of Harvey, and there was a lot to choose from with his near perfect game, bloody nose game, Harvey’s Better game, and others, but it’s hard to top him and David Wright starting the All Star Game at Citi Field.
Every single defensive play made by Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares:
With this being the fifth pennant in Mets history, there are many moments, but perhaps the biggest is Daniel Murphy‘s postseason heroics:
The Mets would need to make a late charge to make the postseason in consecutive seasons for the second time in team history. The lasting image from that run was Asdrubal Cabrera‘s walk-off homer:
After an injury plagued 2016, Michael Conforto would emerge as an All-Star, and his season was highlighted by an impressive homecoming:
It was melancholy, but we got to see Wright play one final game as a member of the New York Mets: