Suddenly needing a replacement for the young, popular, bilingual manager they hired in November and dumped in dishonor last week, the Mets picked the young, popular, bilingual manager prospect they already had.
Luis Rojas will succeed Carlos Beltran — who lost his job because of his involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal — as the Mets’ manager, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Wednesday at Citi Field.
Heading into his 14th season with the organization, Rojas checks a lot of boxes: He is analytically adept, having helped players digest data in his role as quality-control coach last year; he knows the roster, having coached or managed many of the Mets during his dozen years working in the minors; and he comes from a famous baseball family, the son of former Expos/Giants manager Felipe Alou and the brother of former All-Star outfielder Moises Alou.
Not a bad option for a team that found itself in the highly unusual position of looking for a manager in January.
“The short version is he’s very, very well qualified,” said Van Wagenen, who interviewed Rojas multiple times in October but opted for Beltran instead. “We anticipate him to be a great addition to our team. We think he has the ability to be consistent, to be calm under pressure and to understand the opportunity that this team has as we head into the 2020 season.
“He’s respected by the players, he’s trusted by the players and he’s someone that we have great confidence in his ability to lead our team and his ability to put us in the best position to succeed.”
Rojas’ promotion isn’t official yet. Van Wagenen said the Mets are “working to finalize” a multi-year deal with Rojas, 38, who will be formally introduced in a news conference at Citi Field when the contract is done.
Aside from filling Rojas’ previous role, the Mets don’t expect any changes to the coaching staff. The Red Sox reportedly areinterested in bench coach Hensley Meulens for their manager opening, but they have not requested permission to interview him, Van Wagenen said.
Selecting Rojas mostly ends the Mets portion of the 2017 Astros cheating saga. Beltran was a player on that team and was named in Major League Baseball’s report on the issue, and he and the team parted ways — that is the official term — last week.
That left Van Wagenen & Co. conducting their second manager search of the offseason. Because they went through this process in October, this time around it was largely a matter of referring to their notes and deciding whether they needed to re-open their group of candidates, Van Wagenen said.
“Have circumstances changed now that would change what we were looking for in a manager?” Van Wagenen said. “We came to the conclusion that going to the existing candidate pool that we had already gone through this extensive process with was [the best choice]. Even though circumstances have changed, the people that we narrowed our focus to before were the right people for us to focus on.
Van Wagenen said Rojas “was someone we focused on very early and very quickly.” He called Rojas “a serious candidate back in October.”
“When it came to this unfortunate circumstance, we didn’t want to change the values that we outlined for ourselves in the initial process,” Van Wagenen said. “We wanted to continue the momentum that we have with the work that’s been done in preparation for spring training, and we felt like Luis was in a position to be a leader of that group.”
Rojas was popular among Mets last year, his first on the major-league staff, and shortly after the news broke Wednesday, Pete Alonso, Marcus Stroman and Dominic Smith all chimed in approvingly on social media.
This will be Rojas’ first managing job in the majors, but don’t call him inexperienced. In addition to managing in the Dominic Winter League and leading the Dominican Republic team in an Olympic qualifying tournament — a job Rojas was honored to be picked for — he also managed Mets minor league teams for eight seasons. Along the way, he had Jacob deGrom on the 2012 Savannah Sand Gnats and Alonso and Jeff McNeil on the 2018 Binghamton Rumble Ponies, among many others.
And now they are all in the majors, with Rojas in charge.
“[Rojas] has a good finger on the pulse of this particular team,” Van Wagenen said. “He was part of it last year, he was part of the momentum ride we had in the second half of the year and the success we had. From our evaluation standpoint, that was another separator for him versus some of the other candidates. He knows these guys. He knows how to communicate to them. Every returning player on the roster has a relationship with him. That’s valuable to us at this time.”
Former role with the Mets: Quality-control coach in 2019, acting as a conduit between the front office and coaching staff. Rojas helped incorporate analytics into game strategy and preparation. He was also the team's outfield coach last season.
Playing career: A leftfielder, first baseman and third baseman, Rojas played with the Orioles (2000), Marlins (2001-02) and Expos/Nationals (2003-05) in their minor league systems.
Managing career: Gulf Coast Mets (2011), Savannah Sand Gnats (2012-14), St. Lucie Mets (2015-16), Binghamton Rumble Ponies (2017-18)
Family tree: Son of 17-year major league player and former Expos and Giants manager Felipe Alou and brother of six-time All-Star outfielder Moises Alou, who played the last two seasons of his career with the Mets in 2007-08. He is the nephew of former MLB outfielders Matty and Jesus Alou. According to MLB.com, Rojas uses his paternal grandfather’s last name, Rojas, while his father and brother use his paternal grandmother’s last name, Alou.