The Mets were stunned last week when old pal Bartolo Colon, a 44-year-old pitcher with an 8.14 ERA, turned them down to sign with the contending Twins rather than return to a place where he supposedly had good friends and great memories.
That’s not how these things usually go. We fully expected Colon to spend the remainder of his Golden Months surrounded by familiar faces and a fan base that worships him. But nobody, not even Jolly Bart, wants to sign with a losing team on the verge of a messy breakup, and the Mets are on a collision course with oblivion once the second half resumes Friday with the Rockies’ visit to Citi Field.
It’s a battered team, and even the healthy players are dealing with bruised egos midway through the season. But instead of spending the next 2 1⁄2 months circling the drain, Sandy Alderson & Co. have the means to salvage something positive from the ashes of this incredibly disappointing campaign. And the sooner they make room for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, the sooner that healing can begin to happen.
Alderson can continue to wear us out with excuses for keeping Rosario at Triple-A Las Vegas, but it’s not so early anymore — and the GM himself told us a few weeks back that the Super-2 deadline for arbitration has long since passed. Rosario, as we anticipated, told us before Sunday’s Futures Games that he is “100 percent ready” for the majors, the only hedge being that he would remain patient.
Maybe Rosario looking bad on his two strikeouts that day supplied Alderson with enough fresh ammo to reload for his next media briefing. But he did show some nifty glovework at shortstop, a position where the Mets — regardless of their downward arc — could use the kind of defensive upgrade that only 21-year-old legs can provide.
“Whenever the team needs me,” Rosario said through his teammate/interpreter Tomas Nido, “I’ll be ready.”
Given the sorry state of the Mets, not even Rosario is worried about being perceived as a potential savior, as Alderson has expressed. At this stage, the team’s fans just want a reason to show up at Citi Field before football season starts, and last we checked, Rosario is the Mets’ top-rated prospect.
Despite our standard reluctance to play the Yankees’ card in such debates, Brian Cashman has shoveled so deep into the farm system this season that Trenton’s bat-fetching dogs, Derby and Rookie, should be in the Bronx any day now. What else does Rosario have to accomplish? He ended the Triple-A first half on a nine-game hitting streak, batting .415 (17-for-41) with a pair of triples, to pump himself back up to .327 overall with an .839 OPS.
The Mets already have wasted all this time with Neil Walker’s extended stay on the DL and now it’s going to require some harder decisions to clear the spot for Rosario, like figuring out what to do with Jose Reyes, who has hit much better of late.
But Reyes isn’t part of the Mets’ future, obviously, and neither is Lucas Duda, who currently is blocking Smith’s path to the majors. You can be sure Alderson will do everything in his power to trade Duda, and that should include shipping him to the Bronx, if the Yankees eventually need to go that route. Because Smith, at age 22, is looking like he may be getting the hang of things at Vegas, where he’s on a .367 (36-for-98) roll with a 1.019 OPS over his last 25 games.
Tighten the frame a bit further, to his seven-game stretch right before the All-Star break, and Smith is 13-for-31 (.419) with four home runs and 12 RBIs. As is the case with Rosario, he’d also be a defensive upgrade, if not the power source Duda is at first base.
Again, we’re not talking saviors here. The Mets’ season is probably too far gone for that. But just like watching Michael Conforto in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Rosario and Smith give fans more of a reason to tune in.
Also, unlike Big Sexy, they’d be thrilled to play for the Mets.