Billy Eppler worked in New York for a decade, graduating from scout to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s right-hand man. He left that position to become the Angels’ general manager, which means answering the most difficult owners in the majors.
So, he has the ideal credentials to step into the Mets general manager. Despite his five-year run at Anaheim, Eppler began the process with the best player in the world, Mike Trout, on his roster.
Eppler was finalizing a deal Monday night to become the Mets’ general manager. There are still minor details, but there was agreement with the 46-year-old with all the hopes that it would reach the finish line. If so, the Mets feel that there is some Joe Torre in Eppler: a man who left New York, was unsuccessful elsewhere, and is not sure he will ever return, and when he is done with the other New York team, the path to both The Canyon of Heroes and Cooperstown.
The Mets Road is not beautiful for the moment. He tried to appoint the president of baseball operations last offseason, failed to gain entry or persuade any eligible candidate to take the position, and decided to hire only GM. It’s a tragedy. Jared Porter was sacked for a month for his tenure after it was revealed he had sent inappropriate texts to female reporters in a previous job.
The Mets elevated Zach Scott to interim GM. It’s a tragedy. He was arrested for DWI in Westchester, placed on administrative leave on September 2 and dismissed in the offseason.
The Mets again took up the search for the president of baseball operations. Another intruder, again, did not want a job or was unavailable to them, as was their top candidate list. He just returned to GM search. It is not as beautiful as most candidates turn down an interview opportunity.
Team President Sandy Alderson flew to Pittsburgh to meet with Adam Cromy before attending last week’s GM meetings. Cromie then went to New York to meet with Steve Cohen. The perception in GM meetings between Mets competitors is that this is a done deal. But Cromy has not worked in the majors since leaving the Nationals in 2017 when he was an assistant GM. Alderson suggested in the game that the credentials were important to the job; And there is a shortage of chrome in this area.
Alderson began conversations with Eppler after firing his Angels. Especially after Porter’s dismissal and Eppler discussing, among other things, to come as a consultant, the Mets need to increase their decision-making group. It never materialized. But he remained on Alderson’s radar.
Two senior agents left the powerful Excel Sports Management group this offseason and William Morris joined forces with Eppler to join Endeavor, which is essentially an entertainment agency powerhouse. Eppler hopes to be used as a recruiting tool for baseball clients, among other things, because he understands how front offices respect players and the sophistication in training techniques.
This is part of his appeal to the Mets. There is a lot that caught the Mets to Porter. Eppler is generally well-liked by executives, agents, and the commissioner’s office. They have a great feel for the rhythm of how modern front offices work. In contrast to Porter, however, Eppler had a 2005-15 run with the Yankees, which peaked with him as assistant GM, so he knows New York and loved to work and live here (he lived in Williamsburg before becoming GM). Alderson said New York’s fears were a major problem in the Mets’ search for a top baseball executive.
He worked for five years under Angels owner Arte Moreno. Within the game, Moreno is seen as a tough boss to mediate and tighten with a budget; And not just on the payroll. Moreno is believed to be the driving force for big contracts for Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Anthony Rendon, which have so far not performed well. But GM, among other things, had to maintain a lower payroll than the luxury-tax threshold despite high-priced pieces. Eppler failed to do so successfully – the Angels finished next-to-last in four of Eppler’s five GM seasons – arguably even after their greatest victory: Shohei Ohtani from Japan.
But Eppler worked for the late George Steinbrenner and Moreno, giving Cohen a starter kit, even though Cohen did not see himself as a problematic boss. One thing that Eppler knows is that, unlike Anaheim, Cohen is a willing spender trying to make the Mets first class and first division behind the scenes and on the payroll.
Eppler walks past the ghost of Alderson and David Stearns. Alderson has vowed he does not want to run day-to-day baseball operations, and perhaps the year he has spoken to Eppler has formed a bond of trust to do so. Stearns, who runs the Brewers baseball operations, was a major Mets target this offseason and was not allowed to discuss work. However, the Mets have kept the president of baseball operations free, possibly taking them over the next offseason.
With that knowledge, Eppler enters the job. With this – Stearns is one of his best friends in the game. Still, Eppler has at least this year to prove he can handle the big chair without the extra powerful presence on his back. He knows New York. He knows difficult ownership. Whether he can take that education and win this time is important.