Amed Rosario has so much to prove at his Mets crossroad
The platform has shrunk from a full-length feature to, say, a short film at best. Yet that doesn’t lower the 2020 stakes for Amed Rosario.
This still can be his statement season. His stairway to a higher income and better job security. His message to the Mets in this golden age for shortstops.
No pressure, right?
“I’m not putting pressure on myself. Sometimes when you put pressure on yourself, it becomes problematic,” Rosario said Wednesday, through an interpreter, in a Zoom call. “I’m just going out there to have fun and play my game.”
What is his game? Is it the .319/.351/.453 slash line that he compiled in 70 contests — with improved defense, to boot — after the All-Star break last year, giving him a final slash line of .287/.323/.432 in 157 games? Because that’s pretty darn good all around. Putting up the median of those two sets this upcoming 60-game season (if by some miracle the season actually happens) would have to compel the Mets, especially if a deep-pocketed party purchased them, to think about investing long term in him.
“Like I always say, this game can get a little bit complicated,” Rosario said. “But I feel like if I can continue working hard and getting consistent, I think you guys will be seeing a lot of that second-half player.”
Only 24, Rosario’s major league career to date evokes retired Mets-killer Jimmy Rollins not physically — Rosario possesses a 7-inch height advantage on Rollins — but statistically. The shortstop Rollins debuted with the Phillies at age 21, the same age as Rosario with the Mets. He tallied 2.3 wins above replacement, as per Baseball-Reference.com, in his age-23 season; Rosario put up 2.4 WAR last year as a 23-year-old.
With Rosario set to enter the arbitration cycle, which will put his salary in seven figures, next year, the Mets should and would be thrilled if Rosario replicated Rollins’ career.
“Oh my,” Luis Rojas responded when asked what he saw as Rosario’s ceiling. “It’s a great ceiling. We’re still going to see great things from Amed in the future as time goes by.”
As the ceiling rests high, however, the walls pack tightly. If Steve Cohen buys the Mets, as now seems quite possible once again, all indications are he’d start spending immediately. Terrific A’s shortstop Marcus Semien, Angels defensive wunderkind Andrelton Simmons and former Yankee Didi Gregorius, trying to rebuild his value on a one-year deal with the Phillies, all can be free agents this winter. And the following winter? Looks like a shortstop smorgasbord on the open market as we chat now: Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager and Trevor Story. Wow.
Throw in the fact two of the Mets’ top minor leaguers, Andres Gimenez and Ronny Mauricio, are shortstops — “We do have a tremendous crop of shortstops here,” Rosario observed — and a step backward for Rosario would really hurt his cause. The range of future Mets shortstop options creates a broad spectrum of future Mets shortstop outcomes.
The optimal outcome? Rosario, having scored points here already with his positive demeanor, work ethic and durability (no one in New York logged more than his 311 games the prior two seasons), builds on his strong ’19 finish with a really good ’20, convincing the Mets to commit to him through, let’s say, 2025, buying out two years of free agency. In turn, they can use Mauricio as a trade chip to acquire, let’s say, Indians stud pitcher Mike Clevinger as Cleveland’s shortstop Lindor heads to a bigger market.
All big thoughts, and right now, Rosario wisely focuses on the small stuff like preparing for this unprecedented season. It has been “pretty uncomfortable,” he said, in being required to keep his distance from his teammates as well as not spit.
Asked what he does instead of spitting, Rosario said, “I don’t do anything … I really try not to think about it. I try to get on with my day.”
If he gets on with his 66 days and 60 games successfully enough — and beyond, in October — he can spit the finest champagne in celebration. If you shine on your platform, no matter the size, high stakes bring high rewards.
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