Mets hire 'respected' Rojas as new manager

Son of Felipe Alou, skipper has spent 13 years in organization

January 23rd, 2020

NEW YORK -- When the Mets parted ways with Carlos Beltrán last week before he managed a single game, the situation had potential to send their offseason into chaos. With less than a month until Spring Training, the Mets lacked an on-field leader.

To patch that hole as seamlessly as possible, they looked within the walls of their own clubhouse. The Mets officially finalized a multiyear deal to make Luis Rojas their next manager, the club announced on Thursday, pivoting from Beltrán to one of the industry’s most well-respected rising leaders.

“Luis has grown up with baseball in his blood, as his family is part of baseball royalty,” said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. “Luis managed many of our current players during his time in our organization. He is fully prepared for this exciting opportunity.”

The son of longtime Major League player and manager , and the half-brother of former Mets outfielder , Rojas was the Mets’ quality control coach and outfield instructor last season. That was the 38-year-old’s first experience on a big league staff, after he spent 13 years as a coach and manager in the Mets’ Minor League system. Rojas also has experience managing in the Dominican Winter League.

“He has literally trained his whole life to be a manager,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “He comes from a legacy family. … He is respected by the players. He is trusted by the players. And he’s someone that we have great confidence in, [with] his ability to lead our team now.”

As a child, Rojas spent summers in Montreal, hanging around Hall of Famers like Pedro Martinez and Larry Walker as he shadowed his father in the Expos’ clubhouse. Rojas and Felipe Alou are now the sixth pair of father-son managers in Major League history. Two of the other five sons -- David Bell with the Reds, and Aaron Boone with the Yankees -- are active managers.

In 1958, Felipe Alou became just the second Dominican native to play in the Major Leagues (and the first to make the transition directly from the island) when he debuted in right field for the San Francisco Giants. Alou also became the first Dominican to manage in the Majors when he was hired by the Montreal Expos in 1992.

In the D.R., Felipe went by his paternal last name, Rojas. A mixup over Latin American naming conventions led to a Minor League official listing his surname as Alou, that of his mother. The error stuck.

“Growing up in that environment was very impactful, very influential in my baseball growth,” Rojas said last spring. “Just being born in a baseball atmosphere, right away opening my eyes on baseball from the beginning of my understanding was just really helpful. Right away, I wanted to follow my brothers’ steps. I wanted to follow the family’s steps.”

His opportunity to do so resurfaced last week, when the Mets parted ways with Beltrán in the wake of MLB’s report on the Astros’ sign-stealing operation during the 2017 season. With three and a half weeks to find a replacement, the Mets looked internally, sorting through notes from their initial manager search in October. Rojas was a “serious” candidate then, in Van Wagenen’s words, but lost out to Beltrán.

This time around, given his knowledge of the Mets’ inner workings, Rojas seemed a natural fit.

“He’s someone that the organization knew extremely well, and he’s someone that the players knew extremely well,” Van Wagenen said. “When it came to this unfortunate circumstance, we didn’t want to change the values that we outlined for ourselves in the initial process. 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.”

As quality control coach, Rojas served as a liaison between the front office and the clubhouse, distilling analytical information in a way that players could digest. He also put in many hours as an outfield instructor, flying to California last winter to help work on his defensive skills. Within the clubhouse, Rojas has many proponents, including a vocal backer in veteran second baseman .

Part of Rojas’ support comes from the fact that nearly every homegrown Met played for him at some point in the Minors. First baseman , who was with Rojas from 2017-18 at Double-A Binghamton, said in a tweet that it was “awesome playing under him and having him on staff last year as well.” Pitcher , who met Rojas last summer, added: “Love love love it.”

“Loved being around him on the bench last year,” Stroman wrote. “Always teaching and full of knowledge. Super laid back and brings nothing but great vibes each and every day. … Excited even more for the year!”

Rojas, who becomes the second-youngest Major League manager behind Minnesota’s Rocco Baldelli, will begin his work for the 2020 season immediately. After the Mets introduce him formally in the coming days, he will fly to Florida to continue preparing for Spring Training. The Mets expect to make a hire to replace Rojas at quality control coach, but do not anticipate any other coaching-staff changes.

“The short version is he’s very, very well-qualified, and we anticipate him to be a great addition to our team,” Van Wagenen said. “We think that 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 2020.”