5 questions Mets GM Billy Eppler needs to answer as his tenure begins

Billy Eppler treated art turning to side in front of Citi Field background
Billy Eppler treated art turning to side in front of Citi Field background

Mets GM Billy Eppler‘s introductory news conference alongside Mets owner Steve Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson will be on SNY at 12:30 p.m. Friday on TV and across our digital platforms.

Here are five questions Eppler needs to answer as his tenure begins.

What made the job appealing?

On its face, the Mets‘ GM job should’ve been something candidates were falling all over themselves trying to get.

It is a chance to run baseball operations in New York City, working under an owner whose finances make the pursuit of any player possible, for a team that is ready to win and has an incredibly loyal and passionate fan base.

5 questions Mets GM Billy Eppler needs to answer as his tenure begins

But numerous candidates turned down the chance to interview, leading to a prolonged process that only recently had a resolution.

While recently explaining why so many candidates weren’t interested in the job, Mets president Sandy Alderson placed most of the blame on the pressures of New York City, while making small mentions of his own presence and the trepidation some might feel working under Steve Cohen.

So what made the job appealing to Eppler? And how much did his experience working in New York mean for his comfort level of taking this on?

Additionally, what was Eppler’s impression of Cohen, and does he have any concern about autonomy and the dynamic with Alderson?

What went wrong with the Angels?

Eppler was hired as Angels GM after the 2015 season.

During his time there, the Angels signed Mike Trout to a 12-year extension, signed two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, traded for Andrelton Simmons, and signed Anthony Rendon.

But despite the many big-name additions the Angels made during Eppler’s tenure, they finished below .500 and out of the playoffs during every season Eppler was at the helm, with their highest win total being 80 (in both 2017 and 2018).

Feb 14, 2018; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler looks on during a workout at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 14, 2018; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler looks on during a workout at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The caveat here is the belief that much of what went on with the Angels had to do with owner Arte Moreno. Specifically, part of the supposed problem was that Eppler wanted to have a “process-driven” approach when building the organization, while Moreno’s win-now mandates made that close to impossible.

While Cohen wants to win now, he’s also focused on the bigger picture, has beefed up the Mets’ analytics department, and has allowed his baseball operations team to build the farm system the right way. The same cannot be said for Moreno.

It will be surprising if Eppler takes any direct shots at Moreno, but perhaps he’ll be able to dance around it while explaining what lessons he took from his time in Los Angeles and how things will be different in New York.

What are you looking for in a manager?

What kind of candidate is Eppler looking for, and how much does experience matter?

Per SNY’s Andy Martino, Brad Ausmus, Joe Espada, and Eric Chavez could be among the names on Eppler’s radar to manage the Mets.

During his time in Los Angeles, Eppler also interviewed former Red Sox manager John Farrell and former Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

Would Eppler be comfortable hiring someone like Showalter, who might not be open to being as collaborative as most front offices want these days?

Ausmus was Eppler’s choice in Los Angeles and managed there for a year before Moreno forced the hire of Joe Maddon. Espada (who worked with Eppler during his Yankees tenure) is currently the bench coach of the Houston Astros, and Chavez (who worked under Eppler as a special assistant with the Angels) is a candidate to join the Yankees‘ coaching staff.

May 7, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus (12) walks in the dugout prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
May 7, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus (12) walks in the dugout prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

If major league managerial experience matters a lot to Eppler, someone like Ausmus (or Showalter or Farrell) could make the most sense.

If big league managerial experience is not a prerequisite, a seasoned coach like Espada could make sense.

Chavez has limited experience managing in the minors and no coaching experience, but that relative lack of experience hasn’t mattered much for some successful current managers, such as Alex Cora and Aaron Boone.

What is the offseason plan?

The Mets are in the midst of one of their most important offseasons in recent memory, and the relatively late hire of Eppler means that he will have to hit the ground running.

It also means that some of the biggest decisions and biggest moves (extending the qualifying offers to Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard, and Syndergaard’s departure for the Angels) have already happened.

There might also be things that Alderson and the rest of the front office put in motion before Eppler’s hire.

Speaking of things that might already be in motion, what are Eppler’s thoughts on free agents Javier Baez and Marcus Stroman?

Sep 14, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Javier Baez (23) follows through on a game tying solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning at Citi Field.
Sep 14, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Javier Baez (23) follows through on a game tying solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning at Citi Field.

Does he want to hold on to the Mets’ prospects as tightly as Alderson?

Overall, where does Eppler feel the most attention is needed this offseason, and what are his thoughts on potentially blowing way past the luxury tax?

What did you learn from off-field issues with Angels?

On July 1, 2019, during Eppler’s tenure in Los Angeles, pitcher Tyler Skaggs died of a drug overdose, with Angels communications director Eric Kay later charged with distributing oxycodone and fentanyl to Skaggs.

The government said that Kay asked drug suppliers to deliver opioids to Angel Stadium and that he provided drugs to numerous players.

With a police investigation ongoing shortly after Skaggs’ death, Eppler did not expand much at the time on the alleged details surrounding it and whether the Angels ever suspected something could be amiss.

Later during Eppler’s tenure, in October of 2019, they hired Mickey Callaway as pitching coach after Callaway was fired by the Mets.

In May 2021, after Eppler’s time with the Angels was over, Callaway was suspended by MLB through 2022 and fired by Los Angeles after an investigation into Callaway following a detailed report of accusations of sexual harassment throughout his career.

With the Mets having also failed in their vet of Callaway (and later, Jared Porter), what processes will Eppler have in place to properly vet potential Mets employees going forward?