New York: Luis Rojas was granted another year to manage the Mets and that is well deserved after a 60-game rookie season and guiding his team to a 26-34 record. It was also a season of adversity with a disruption due to COVID-19.
Overall, though, Rojas had the respect of his players. Rojas, Wednesday said his in game management decisions could have been better and requested that Dave Jauss join his coaching staff.
Jauss, bench coach under former manager Terry Collins was appointed this week and replaces Hensley Meulens. Rojas and Jauss have a previous and outstanding working relationship in the Mets minor league system.
“We expect to be active to continue upgrading the team,” Rojas said in a Zoom media conference call.
With an offseason that has been about the Mets, Rojas has been busy on the job at his home in the Domincan Republic. He has been in constant contact with team president Sandy Alderson.
New owner, Steve Cohen has also been a part of the discussions. The transition of a new front office has also included the appointment of Jared Porter as the general manager.
The Mets have been active with free agency. James McCann signed a four-year $40 million contract to be their starting catcher. He brings experience and is solid behind the plate. Reliever Trevor May was signed to boost the bullpen.
They are two good and valuable pickups for the Mets and free agency appears to be the route for a franchise that tended to avoid going after the big contract. But, Cohen, the billionaire owner and richest in baseball, has the resources to spend. Alderson has said the Mets will be cautious and be active in free agency to fill their needs. The emphasis is to avoid trading away prospects and draft picks they need to retain towards rebuilding their minor league system.
So last season, with the adversity at hand, Rojas learned on the job. Again 60-games does not make a season and a rookie manager started to see results as the Mets made a late rush for one of those extra wild card spots in the expanded postseason.
They came up short. Rojas does see an addition here and there as a way for the Mets to be one of those postseason teams in 2021. First, though, is getting a start date for spring training as MLB is looking at another curtailed season and delay of spring training.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and vaccine are issues that confront MLB and the players, and in a month or so the picture should be clearer as to a start date. All of this of course depends on the players and league to agree.
But Rojas is moving ahead. So are the Mets, a team that for the first time in memory is the buzz of baseball. There is constant talk about the Mets in discussion to possibly sign two of the other prized free agents on the market in NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer and outfielder George Springer.
Regardless, Rojas is evaluating how Amed Rosario fits in the plan as the shortstop or to get time at third base. Andres Jimenez, developed in a rookie year and appears to have a secure spot at shortstop or at second base.
And with Robinson Cano out of the picture, a second and season long suspension due to a violation of MLB steroid use, Rosario and Jimenez are focal points of the Mets infield. However, Rosario and his inconsistencies could leave more room for Jimenez to be the everyday starter,
Rojas would not rule out a third base look for Rosario.
“We’ve had conversations about him throwing from that angle and practicing some of those plays that he can make from third base, and just learn the position a little bit so he can expand. From a strategy standpoint it will definitely help the team more.”
Cano, Rojas said, was a situation that cut him off guard.
“I was shocked when it happened. Obviously disappointed at the time as well, knowing the suspension. So, yes I reached out always to give my support and to be there for him. Since you test positive in the program (MLB) especially for a second time, we know what’s going on.”
Rojas said he will continue to be supportive of Cano. With the Cano contract this year off the books, in excess of $24 million of the $40 million in a deal of a contract that was made with the Mariners, the Mets have more money on the table to spend if they continue to be active in free agency.
But the complexion of salaries and free agents has changed. The market is slow, for now, as owners claimed they lost billions in revenue this season and due to no fans and concessions as a result of the pandemic.
Rojas also mentioned the breakout season for Dominic Smith who figures to be in the plan, with or without a universal designated hitter that remains in the hands of MLB and the players.
And, he expects Pete Alonso, the 2019 Latino Sports NL Rookie of the year recipient, and NL Rookie of the year, to bounce back from a struggle of a shortened 60-game season.
Alonso finished with an average below .200 and was chasing pitches out of the strike zone.
“He was getting hot,” Rojas said. Unfortunately, though, the hits and home runs came too late. Alonso and his consistent bat in the lineup have become a major cog around Jeff McNeil and JD Davis.
But Rojas is no longer the rookie here. Porter, 41, years old, is the rookie of this team and brings a lot of expectations to the table as the GM. He brings his success of winning with the Red Sox, Cubs, and as an assistant to the GM of the Diamondbacks.
And Porter’s manager is getting another year under the new regime, and Sandy said so when he provided his vision with owner Steve Cohen a month ago.
“It’s different now,” Rojas said. Indeed it is with a new regime in charge. Amd that first year and rookie mistakes are a thing of the past as the Mets move on to 2021.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso Sports With Rich YouTube. Like, Comment, Subscribe.
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