Mets manager Luis Rojas faces any number of challenges as Spring Training nears. But first among equals is to tell his boss he alone owns his lineup.
Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s to-do list for the offseason contained a need to find a genuine major league centerfielder.
He declared the experiment with Juan Lagares over and did not tender him a contract due to a decided inability to hit major league pitching. At best, Lagares was seen as an excellent defensive replacement in the late innings of a game.
The Mets then proceeded to spend three months in on again and off again negotiations with the Pittsburgh Pirates to obtain Starling Marte.
A six-time Gold Glove winner, Marte also holds a lifetime batting average of .287, and last year he produced 23 home runs to go with 87 RBI and 25 stolen bases.
Marte, though, was taken off the board by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who sent 19-year-old shortstop Liover Peguero, and 19-year-old pitcher Brennan Malone to the Pirates. Neither player is listed among MLB’s Top 100 Prospects for 2020.
Whether or not Van Wagenen realized his attempts to reach a deal with the Pirates for Marte were futile, we’ll never know.
Mets GM Van Wagenen Says – “I’ve Got This One”
What we do know is that Van Wagenen, perhaps as a preemptive strike or insurance policy, struck a deal with the Houston Astros in December to acquire Jake Marisnick. Subsequently, Van Wagenen signed him to a one-year deal worth $3.3 million.
Marisnick came advertised as a superior centerfielder, and his defense numbers support the claim.
Presently, baseball’s most favorite stat in rating an outfielder’s fielding prowess is Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).
Indeed Marisnick is off the charts in that category and, according to Baseball-Reference, is credited with saving 23 runs for the Astros last year.
Except, No Brodie Doesn’t “Get It”
Here’s the kicker, though. Over seven seasons and nearly 700 major league games, Marisnick can only claim a batting average of .227, an on-base percentage of .280, and 54 home runs.
The guy can’t hit a lick. So, essentially what we have here is Juan Lagares with a different uniform number.
Van Wagenen is probably assuming that for $3 million, Marisnick is going to be the Mets regular centerfielder in 2020.
That’s a pretty tall order for a brand new manager who has yet to manage his first big league game, but Rojas is spot on, and he has logic and common sense on his side.
For one thing, Nimmo is no slouch as a centerfielder. He doesn’t come close to Marisnick’s DRS, but he gets the job done. Plus, he can hit a lick.
Nimmo was injured most of last year, but if you go back to 2018 when he played 140 games for the Mets, there’s a lot to like.
Nimmo batted only a pedestrian .263 that year, but his on-base percentage was a whopping .404. He also hit 17 home runs, had an OPS of .886, and led the league in getting hit by pitches with 22.
Rojas: The Defense Rests
But the real problem that Rojas would be trying to contain is the puzzle in left field where Nimmo is penciled in as a regular in the Mets lineup.
Add Dominic Smith and potentially Yoenis Cespedes to the mix, and you can realize the problem Rojas is facing in trying to get regular at-bats for three players in just one position – if Nimmo is not moved over to centerfield.
What to do with Jake Marisnick? Well, that’s not Rojas’s problem. He can be what he is – a reincarnated Juan Lagares.
Unless, of course, Brodie Van Wagenen draws a line in the sand, generally a practice GM’s usually refrain from saying, “No, no. Marisnick plays because I said so”.
Luis Rojas has the baseball argument totally in his favor. Van Wagenen, on the other hand, has the power and, indeed, the oversized ego to override Rojas.
Mets: Nimmo Makes Sense
The risk is there for Rojas to take. Most likely, he would win the battle with the media and fans if the issue became public, which in New York is virtually a certainty.
And who knows, maybe Brodie will take one for the team, telling the media, “See, I told you this is the right man for the job…”
Wouldn’t that be something nice to see for a change?