With 10 games to go in the 2020 regular season, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen met with reporters on Friday to discuss a variety of topics, including where things stand on a Michael Conforto contract extension and what the sale of the team to Steve Cohen means for the future of the franchise.
But Van Wagenen touched on a number of other subjects as well, including the job Luis Rojas has done in his first season as manager, what the future may hold for Seth Lugo, and how frustrating it’s been that Jed Lowrie has barely been able to play in a Mets uniform.
Here are some of the takeaways from what Van Wagenen had to say…
On Luis Rojas' first season as Mets manager
The 2020 season has been perhaps the most unique campaign in the history of baseball. From the condensed 60-game schedule, to the universal DH and extra-inning rule changes, to teams needed to adapt on the fly to different situations due to the pandemic, it’s been as uncertain a season as baseball has ever seen.
But despite all of that, one this is certain, and that’s how confident that Mets GM is in Rojas as the team’s manager moving forward.
“I’ve gained even more respect and admiration for Luis through these 50 games and through summer camp than what I had in him previously with his career here with the Mets and also once we hired him last winter,” Van Wagenen said. “These are tremendously difficult circumstances, and I can’t stress that enough that what all of you are dealing with and the new environments that’s you’re forced to do your jobs under, it’s been a challenge here, but he’s handled it with dignity, with poise, with composure, and the area where I’ve been most impressed with him – separate from the Xs and Os and his decision-making, which I think he’s been very good – he’s communicated with his players daily. There’s not a time before or after a game that he hasn’t talked to a player about his decision-making prior to making it.
“Even after a game, he’s still a teacher. If a player makes a mistake in a game, he’s willing to talk to him about it, and it’s not to punish the player, it’s to educate the player and put him in a situation where he can not make that mistake again. His baseball IQ has always been strong, his communication skills have been applied to helping get the best out of all these players, and in a short season with as many good players as we have, he’s had to have a lot of difficult conversations. But I’ve been very impressed with him and can only have positive things to say about his future going forward, and I think he’s going to continue to be a great manager tonight and hopefully these next 10 games.”
On Seth Lugo’s role moving forward
Lugo was undoubtedly the Mets’ best reliever in 2019, and he started off on that same track in 2020. But after the starting rotation was hit with a plethora of injuries, the Mets elected to move Lugo into the rotation, something he’s been wanting for quite a while.
When asked where Lugo’s role with the team will be moving forward, Van Wagenen said that it’s clear the right-hander can succeed as either a starter or reliever, and for now they just want him to be the best starter he can be over the season’s final stretch
“As far as his role goes, we’ve said this for the last two years, that we see Seth Lugo as a guy who can be a starting pitcher. This year he is a starting pitcher after performing for us well for us early in the year in the bullpen,” Van Wagenen said. “He has both of those traits in his arsenal and in his ability, but as we look right now, we certainly hope he can make that next turn as a starting pitcher with us and be performing at the level he (was) earlier in the year, and then when we get to the offseason we’ll have to look at the big puzzle and put it all together once we have a clear picture on what our strategy will be.
“Right now, Seth is a member of our rotation and we need him. He’s going to take the ball on his next go-through and we’re going to need him to be at his best that night … Obviously Seth is somebody that we value and we think has tremendous talent. The fact that we put him in the rotation this year validates some of the things we’ve said in the past.”
On the Jed Lowrie situation
When Lowrie was signed to a two-year, $20 million dollar contract prior to the 2019 season, the Mets obviously had high hopes that he’d be a key piece of the team’s success. But due to a lingering issue that has been described as “PCL laxity,” Lowrie has only made eight plate appearances with the team, and he’s now reportedly home in Houston, all but officially ending his tenure with the team.
“I think that whenever a player comes to a new team or whenever a team makes an investment in a player, even a homegrown player, you don’t know what he future’s going to hold in terms of performance,” Van Wagenen said. “I know Jed is a very hard worker, he’s obviously very talented, we’ve seen that over the course of his career, even when we saw that in summer camp when he had the bat in his hands. So it’s frustrating that he wasn’t able to perform for his own goals, it was frustrating that he wasn’t able to perform for us in our investment in him, and I know that he could have helped us as a player. So when we look at someone who’s had health issues, it’s a matter of pulling all resources, looking at every angle, uncovering every stone, and trying to do everything that we can to put [him] in a position to play and play as soon as possible. That didn’t happen this year, and hopefully for his sake at some point he can, whether these injections put him on that path to returning to play or whatever his decision-making will be as he looks at his career going forward. I hope that he can get back to being the best player that’s been, and it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to do that together.
“It’s impossible to predict how a body’s going to respond. I can tell you that whether it’s consultation with doctors, whether it was treatment options, whether it was trying to assess, diagnosis, rehab, whatever it may be, I know that there was motivation for him to get on the field and there was motivation for us to try to find anyway to get him on the field for not only last year but of course this year as well.”