There’s a very good chance that New York Mets manager Luis Rojas will have a different-looking team in some aspect within the next month or two, but he’s already facing a few big decisions on some invaluable contributors.
Speaking with the media via Zoom on Wednesday afternoon, Rojas provided updates on the plans mainly involving pitcher Seth Lugo and first baseman/left fielder Dominic Smith.
The role of Lugo has been a hot-button issue over the last few years as the starter-turned-reliever has had flip-flopped from the bullpen to the rotation throughout his Mets stay.
While the numbers suggest the 31-year-old righty is better suited for the bullpen, Rojas admitted that right now, Lugo “has been in conversations to be either way.”
“With respect to our front office and working on the logistics of our needs, there’s going to be some talks on whether we’ll use him in the bullpen or the rotation,” Rojas said. “I’ve talked to Seth… we really haven’t talked about roles for next year yet. One of the things here is if you ask a majority of the pitchers, they want to be starters… he wants the ball all the time.”
Lugo was forced to make the jump from the bullpen to the rotation during the 2020 season as injuries ransacked the Mets’ starting staff. As a reliever, he posted a 2.61 ERA in nine appearances. As a starter, that number ballooned to 6.15 over seven outings.
“He’s done both, I thought it was a challenge for him to stretch out during a 60-game season and then perform at the same time… I think he can give us both,” Rojas said. “Right now, we’re not there. I know a guy like Seth will want the ball either way. We’ll commit to him when we make the plan.”
As for Smith, the Mets will have to find a way to include his bat in the lineup if the National League is not given the designated hitter in 2021.
Smith flourished last season performing as either a DH, first baseman, or left fielder and was one of the National League’s top offensive producers, ranking in the top-10 in batting average (.316), slugging percentage (.616), OPS (.993), doubles (21), RBI (42), and extra-base hits (32).
If there is no DH, Rojas’ only options to play Smith are at first base, where Pete Alonso’s bat won’t be taken out of the lineup, or left field, which features a far more manageable competition with high on-base man, Brandon Nimmo.
“Dom will have more time in left field,” Rojas said. “Dom works really hard, he wants to stay versatile, he knows what’s going on, he’s very professional about it. So let’s wait and see what the final rule is on the universal DH.”
Versatility was a theme of Rojas’ conversation Wednesday, which is a concept that will be applied to shortstop Amed Rosario. After struggling in 2020 and with the emergence of Andres Gimenez, the only way for the 25-year-old to guarantee playing time is if he learns to play another position.
“Some of the things that I thought about Rosie is to expand his versatility,” he said. “I know the outfield position has been mentioned before but that’s not something he’s doing and something we’re not planning to do with him. He’s working at shortstop at his main position but to expand… playing a little bit of third base is something that will definitely help him and the team. We’ve had conversations about it, throwing from that angle… learning the position a little bit.”