Hiring of Billy Eppler as general manager is a 'relief' for Mets leadership

There are plenty of reasons to be encouraged by the hiring of Billy Eppler, who was finally introduced Friday as the new Mets general ma...


There are plenty of reasons to be encouraged by the hiring of Billy Eppler, who was finally introduced Friday as the new Mets general manager. As a professional recruiting director, he helped win a world series for the Yankees. As general manager, he signed Shohei Ohtani for the Los Angeles Angels. At 46, he’s young enough to appreciate the value of data, but old enough to honor the instincts of scouts.

“Just returned from MLB owner meetings, and I can tell you: just universal praise for the hiring,” said Mets owner Steven Cohen, who is restarting the organization again after a first trying season, on and off the field.

“I mean, people coming from all over tell me that we have a real pro, valued in the industry, very respected. So I am excited. Look, I spend a lot of time on it, and like I always say, I have a day job. So it’s a relief to have someone I feel really good with.

Cohen, a hedge fund billionaire, made two failed investments last year. He fired the chief executive he hired last fall, Jared Porter, after revelations that Porter had sexually harassed a reporter. Interim Managing Director Zack Scott was fired this month after his arrest at the end of the summer for driving while intoxicated.

A prolonged job search, in which Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson failed to convince several high-profile candidates, ended in a four-year contract for Eppler, who has a reputation for integrity. What he doesn’t have, however, is a winning track record as general manager.

Even with stars like Mike Trout and Ohtani, the Angels have had a loss record in each of Eppler’s five seasons (2016-2020). Asked about it on Friday, Eppler described the challenges he inherited: overpaid players on long-term contracts, sharing a division with the well-stocked Houston Astros, an epidemic of pitching injuries, a sterile farming system.

“The lack of depth made us dive into free will to fill several holes on the list,” Eppler explained, “and when you’re thin at that depth, all the injuries you take really make you fall through the ice. . “

Injury and lack of depth are also familiar issues for the Mets, and Cohen conceded on Friday that the answers might not come from within.

“Our budget today, without even signing anyone, is already around $ 185 million,” Cohen said. “If we’re going to find the right kind of talent, it’s probably going to be trades with other clubs or free agents. We don’t really have much in the farming system to supplement what we need.

“So that will probably require some expense, and that’s what’s going to happen. And I let Billy know that I’m ready, for the good deals and the good free agents, to go get the players we need.

“We want to be competitive, don’t we? We want to win our division and be in the playoffs and go deep into the playoffs, right? So we need to field a team that has the capacity to do it. “

Of course, Cohen was also set to spend the final offseason, and the Mets have had few of their highest-paid newcomers. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, starter Carlos Carrasco and wide receiver James McCann all performed well below expectations, and Lindor has just started his 10 years, $ 341 million Contract.

Rotation is an urgent concern. Noah Syndergaard has already party for the angels (one year, $ 21 million) in free agency. Marcus Stroman, the only Mets starter who has been healthy and reliable all season, is a free agent. Ace Jacob deGrom missed the second half with arm injuries. Taijuan Walker and Tylor Megill passed out in August and September.

“I’m looking at the roster and I really want to tackle the pitch,” said Eppler, mentioning the departure of Syndergaard. “We’re also going to entertain things in the outfield and entertain things in the infield.”

So the Mets need a pitcher, an infield, an outfield – and a new manager too. Angels-hired Eppler manager Brad Ausmus is available; he served a year before team owner Arte Moreno replaced him with Joe Maddon. Eppler gave no indication of his possible choice, but said it would be a collaborative decision.

“Billy will report back to me, but we will definitely consult,” said Alderson, describing the Mets chain of command. “But I expect Billy to lead this operation. I will be available as a resource, and over time what I would expect is that Billy will have even more leeway than he has. has some in the immediate future.

The Mets initially sought both a president of baseball operations and a general manager, before limiting the search to a single hire. Alderson, who turns 74 next week, said the Mets could revisit that plan again next winter, effectively giving Eppler a year to prove he can lead the department.

“Steve and I will take a look at this at the end of the season and Steve will make a decision on where he wants to go,” Alderson said. “But Billy has a lot of opportunities here to settle down, grow and impact that decision a year from now.”

Eppler worked for the Yankees under George Steinbrenner, so the threat of a Twitter missive from Cohen is unlikely to bother him. Yes, said Cohen, he keep tweeting because the fans seem to like him, but he stressed the importance of delegating authority.

“You’re going to interfere with every decision, it just won’t work,” Cohen said. “At least that’s how I run my other businesses, and it’s done well. And I expect to make it work the same here.

“And that’s sort of the plan. You’re not going to fix everything the first year. I call it a bit of a scavenger hunt: As you go through the organization, you find things that you need to fix. That’s sort of what I would expect, getting into an organization that was under-resourced, and we’re in the process of doing it. We made progress last year.

These advances weren’t always clear on the pitch, as the Mets wheezed down the home stretch to finish 77-85. Now Eppler must do what he couldn’t in Anaheim: build a winning team – and fast. Free agents know where to find him.

“Last night I was starting to get a lot of text messages from agents,” Eppler said. “And I responded to a lot of them saying, ‘You’ll hear from me today. “”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Hiring of Billy Eppler as general manager is a 'relief' for Mets leadership
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