The Mets considered having prized shortstop Amed Rosario get work in center field last summer.
However, despite the need in center field last season, Rosario did zero work in the outfield. And he didn't see any work there this Spring Training either.
But here we are again, with manager Mickey Callaway saying earlier this week that the team is again considering Rosario in the outfield.
This summer, Lagares, Conforto, and Jeff McNeil have mostly patrolled the outfield, while Brandon Nimmo has been injured. However, this year's struggle for outfield consistency comes at a time when Rosario's struggles in the infield have gotten worse than the year before.
The 23-year-old, who says he played only a bit of outfield in the minor leagues, is currently tied for the National League lead with 11 errors. He's on pace to end the season with roughly -30 defensive runs saved.
It was just two years ago that Rosario's ability to play shortstop was being praised by scouts and countless minor league reporters and experts.
"He has outstanding speed, hands, footwork and a very strong arm, everything he needs to stay at shortstop long term," MLB.com's Jim Callis wrote about Rosario in 2016, when he was considered the organization's top prospect.
"I think he's a true shortstop," ESPN's Keith Law wrote just before Rosario's promotion in 2017. "His instincts are really good. He's got a great arm and quick release."
His first-step quickness was the only concern expressed to me by an area scout during Spring Training in 2017, but he expected that to improve in time with added strength and experience.
"He's showing me tremendous range, he's got soft hands and he handles himself well around the bag," the scout said. "He has everything needed to be one of the better fielding shortstops in the National League."
To take it one step further, in the same notebook, I see a first-hand quote from a rival National League, front-office executive, who flat out said, "He's the real deal, I'd take him in a second."
The way it stands, center field for the Mets has mostly been played this year by Lagares, Nimmo and Carlos Gomez, all of whom entered Sunday with a collective .598 OPS, which ranks fourth-worst in baseball behind the Orioles, Padres, and Royals. But, as of now, Rosario is going to stay put.
"He's still our starting shortstop. It's nothing imminent," Callaway said Sunday when asked about the potential switch. "It's just something we're thinking about and maybe preparing for."
That said, according to eye witnesses, Rosario has been shagging baseballs in the outfield during the team's batting practice the past few days.
"We're not going to rule anything out that may help us be the team we want to be," Callaway added.
This season, infielders Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis, and McNeil have spent time in the outfield, which means the coaching staff is experienced in helping players make the switch. It also means Rosario would have teammates that had made a similar shift to help guide him.
"He can make the routine play, but so far that's it," a rival team's advanced scout told me earlier today about Rosario playing short. "He pretty much rates below average on anything less and, I'm sorry to say it, but I have not seen him make a remote play all season."
This is accurate, at least according to Rosario's most recent Inside Edge scouting report, which indicates he has made just one of the 13 plays hit to him considered "remote" this season. He's 0-for-10 on balls considered "unlikely," and picked just seven of 13 balls considered "likely," which is essentially one hit five-to-seven steps to his immediate left or right from where he was standing before the ball was hit.
Should Rosario make the move soon, the Mets would likely turn to veteran Adeiny Hechavarria to fill in at shortstop, where he has eight years of experience under his belt. The team also has Luis Guillorme, who is the best fielding shortstop I've ever seen up close.
My burgeoning fear is that part of the team considering Rosario in center field is because they're preparing for a need to deal with a long-term absence of Nimmo.
Nimmo recently visited with and got a second opinion on his spine from specialist Dr. Robert Watkins, who is the same doctor that oversaw David Wright's attempted recovery from multiple spinal conditions and surgeries.
Initially, it was reported that Nimmo had a stiff neck, after which it was categorized as an issue related to a cervical disk. I don't think Nimmo is the next Wright, but I do worry he could be headed down a road recently traveled by Lucas Duda, who dealt with a similar series of pain, subluxations, and disc issues. In time, Duda saw a decrease in power, mobility, playing time and demand.
Given how poorly Rosario is playing in the field, if Nimmo is a question mark, the Mets moving their former top shortstop prospect to the outfield and making room for current top-shortstop prospect Andres Gimenez might be what's best for everyone involved.
In Gimenez, the Mets have a slick, lightweight, very mature 20-year-old shortstop hitting just .231/.305/.354 with 17 extra-base hits in 54 games at Double-A. He hit .277/.344/.358 with 10 extra-base hits during his first stint with Binghamton (37 games) last season, at which time his fielding drew more praise than his bat.
"He can flat-out play shortstop, and should be able to play there long-term thanks to his strong arm, excellent hands, range and plus instincts for the position," MLB.com recently wrote about Gimenez.
Hey, wait, where have I heard that before?
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!