Billy Eppler, the new Mets general manager came out of his corner Friday afternoon and said the Mets will be spending money on free agents. That was a good first impression and of course every Mets fan wanted to hear that.
The owner, Steve Cohen, on a Zoom session with the media was all in. Finally the Mets GM search is over and now the work begins to sign those free agents, make the trades, and search for a new manager. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner survived a purge and eventually the vacancies will be filled.
“I would love to find somebody that would check every single box, somebody that is great in all areas,” Eppler said regarding the managerial search that will include priorities of in-game management and clubhouse culture.
And the process is no different in finding a new manager as it was in hiring Eppler. The Mets have learned their lesson from last year, did the background checks, and Eppler has that noted and reputed background.
“We want to win our division and be in the playoffs and win in the playoffs so you know, we’ve got to field a team that has the ability to do that,” Cohen said.
And it was much like last November, when Cohen in his initial press conference, days after assuming ownership, said he would provide interim GM Sandy Alderson the needs and resources to spend. He was open to suggestions to put a competitive team on the field.
We all know what occurred since, as two GM’s came and went. Alderson again was in the GM chair without a president of baseball operations and the Mets would hold first place 103 days. They rapidly fell apart as the Braves won another division title and World Series championship.
So the beginning of another new regime is in place. Alderson “The Master” will hang around and Eppler will report to him. Alderson said, eventually his role will be diminished.
Eppler comes with accolades. HIs mentor was Gene Michael and he was employed with the Yankees and later took on GM responsibilities with the Angels that came with some turbulence. His great find was AL MVP Shohei Ohtani. Cohen said he got universal praise about hiring Eppler during the owners meetings this week.
A high ranking baseball executive said to me, “Without a doubt Cohen got this right. Billy is respected and has an eye for talent that comes from his days as a scout and observing hitters and pitchers everyday. He has proved to be a winner and is a New Yorker at heart.”
Trust me, if something comes up in the past about Eppler then it will be time to employ an exorcist at Citi Field.
Cohen said about this hiring process, “We vetted it in multiple ways, we spoke to a lot of people who were around the organization at that time (Angels) spoke to people within baseball, We’re incredible with Billy and his decision making and his ethics and background.”
Eppler also has a feel for analytics which works in the Mets approach and will use that strategy. He said the Mets will be aggressive in pursuing proper free agents and trades to put a winning team in place.
You ask, it didn’t work last year, so what will be different? It was a total failure for the owner, the front office, and on the field. Steve Cohen, the richest owner in baseball and with the ability to spend was disappointed about the outcome of 2021.
Remember, Cohen is a Mets fan. He felt the pain of losing and made that known on his Twitter feed that became unprecedented for a baseball owner and especially in the New York market.
Expect the work to begin immediately and it could be quick. The clock is ticking towards a new collective bargaining agreement with players and owners that expires December 1. No agreement and baseball business goes on hiatus. That includes any potential free agent signings and trades.
That high ranking MLB executive baseball job in Flushing, NY was difficult to find because some who were under consideration bypassed the prestige, salary, and challenge to guide the Mets. Others as mentioned were restricted with team contracts.
David Stearns is believed to be a front runner to assume the role handling baseball operations for the Mets when his existing contract with the Brewers ends next year.
For now, though, this is in the hands of Billy Eppler. He said a priority is roster depth and rebuilding the pitching rotation after Noah Syndergaard signed a one-year $21 million contract and went west to the Angels.
“We’re going to have some resources behind us,” Eppler said. “We had one player who signed somewhere else in Noah and we just really want to reinforce the overall depth.. We are going to entertain things in the outfield and entertain things in the infield.”
No mention of re-signing infielder Javier Baez or Marcus Stroman for the pitching rotation, just some of the immediate tasks confronting the new GM.
But employed with the money of “Uncle” Steve Cohen, that should have been a great pitch in the premiere baseball market of New York. Eppler knows New York, the market here, and loves the fan base he first experienced as a scout in 2005 at Shea Stadium.
A lot of his free agent deals with the Angels did not work, then again not many played to expectations with previous Mets free agent acquisitions. Eppler said his biggest takeaway with the Angels was the importance of having depth.
Cohen will provide his new GM with the resources to spend. A payroll of $185 million, as Cohen said, is not out of the question of going higher. But it’s spending wisely and the correct way. Cohen alluded again that his businesses are successful with spending the correct way.
But this is baseball business and there is a difference with what they do on the field, on the pitcher’s mound. Steve Cohen got a good learning experience in his first year. He admitted to still learning how this process works.
Another process is complete and now the business of putting that winning team on the field begins. Cohen said about Eppler, “He is going to be an easy person to work with. I really look forward to the whole team getting going here and filling our needs”
Plenty of needs for sure. You hope this time in good hands and in the trust of Billy Eppler.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso