Mickey Callaway has enjoyed a relatively smooth first week as manager. While Gabe Kapler and Aaron Boone have been heavily scrutinized early in their respective managerial careers, Callaway has led his team to five wins in his first six games.
Callaway has benefited from contributions across his roster and has shown that he trusts his players. Before a win against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 31, Callaway told the media, “I have faith in everybody on our roster, and I want guys to play. I don’t want guys sitting around for five, six days and not playing.”
While Callaway has not been shy about shaking up his lineup, to mostly positive returns, his decision to sit shortstop Amed Rosario in favor of Jose Reyes for two of the past three games has proven to be ill-advised. Reyes, whom the Mets re-signed in January to a one-year deal, was brought back to mentor Rosario and to serve as a utility infielder who could spot start at second, short, and third. While Rosario will need the occasional day off and Reyes is the likely beneficiary of this, starting Reyes twice over Rosario in a three-game span is a misstep in Callaway’s otherwise sound early-season judgment.
Reyes has not rewarded Callaway’s confidence, as his first two starts have been disastrous. On Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies, he started at short and went hitless in two at-bats, committed an error on a routine ground ball, and was caught stealing to end the second inning with Matt Harvey up to bat. The latter represents an inexcusable lapse in judgment that should not be displayed by a 15-year veteran.
Reyes got the nod again on Thursday afternoon against the Nationals, and he went hitless in four at-bats and made a wild relay throw home on Anthony Rendon’s RBI double that allowed Adam Eaton to score. Reyes’s defensive missteps are not unique to this year, as he posted a team-worst -2.1 dWAR in 2017—and has not posted a positive dWAR since 2013. Callaway defended his decision before Thursday’s game, telling the media, “I thought that Reyes vs. Strasburg would probably be a pretty good matchup.”
MC said he liked the matchup of Jose Reyes vs. Stephen Strasburg (he’s 8 for 32 against him, most at-bats of any Met), and Kevin Plawecki’s ability vs. sliders.— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) April 5, 2018
Rosario, who drove in the winning run against the Phillies on Wednesday, should be given every opportunity to play when he’s healthy and should not be relegated to the bench twice in the same week, especially since the Mets have enjoyed three days off in the season’s first nine days. A start against Stephen Strasburg would have allowed the Mets to see how their young star performs against one of baseball’s best pitchers.
This is not to say that Reyes should be buried on the bench. He was a valuable asset last year, posting a 2.0 oWAR in 2017 (third best on the Mets). There is reason to believe Reyes can improve as the season goes on, as evidenced by his .294 average in the last three months of 2017 following his .202 average for the first half of the season. He will get plenty of playing time, especially since Asdrubal Cabrera and Todd Frazier will need days off, and Reyes is better suited to play second with his diminishing range.
The important thing is the Mets were able to overcome Reyes’s sub par play and win both games. Still, Callaway should steer clear of the temptation to rest Rosario for Reyes on a regular basis in order to allow Rosario, who is hitting .333 in this young season, to build on his promise and show the Mets and their fans his full potential.