CHICAGO — The Mets expect to announce the hiring of Billy Eppler as their general manager later this week, perhaps as early as Thursday, according to sources.
Among those last few things to get done? A background check, of course.
After some holes in their past vetting process, most notably with former GM Jared Porter and manager Mickey Callaway, the Mets are making sure to be as thorough as possible this time around with Eppler.
Porter lasted five weeks on the job before he was fired in January of this year when unsolicited salacious texts to a female reporter surfaced dating to his employment with the Cubs. The Mets axed Callaway for his onfield performance, but it was later revealed that he had a history of alleged sexual misconduct, both before and during his stint in Flushing.
Since the Porter firing, the Mets have pledged to be more vigilant in researching candidates, and they’ve had more than enough opportunities to do so in trying to fill these front-office leadership positions. The deal with Eppler came together Monday and will complete what has been a turbulent year-long process of trying to renovate the front office after Steve Cohen’s $2.45-billion purchase of the franchise.
The Mets went through more than a dozen candidates over the past six weeks alone, with many either removing themselves from consideration or being denied permission to speak with club president Sandy Alderson about the positions. Last week, at the GM meetings in Carlsbad, California, Alderson ticked off a list of reasons why people had rebuffed the Mets’ interest, including an aversion to working under the white-hot New York spotlight.
"There’s a reluctance to come to New York, but I think it’s mostly about New York," Alderson said. "Not about Steve or the organization. It’s a big stage and some people would just prefer to be elsewhere ... There’s no tanking in New York. It’s always a competition. It’s not unforgiving, but it’s a demanding place -- which I enjoy by the way."
In Eppler’s case, he’s fine with it, having worked for the Yankees under Brian Cashman for 12 years, graduating from scouting director to assistant GM during that period. At least Alderson knows Eppler can handle the heat. As for handling Cohen -- a presence that turned away some candidates -- Eppler also has experience operating under the Angels’ Arte Moreno, regarded as one of the more meddlesome owners in the sport.
The main caveat with Eppler is a lackluster performance record as the Angels’ GM: a .469 winning percentage (332-376) over five seasons and zero playoff appearances despite having the game’s best player in Mike Trout and an historic two-way star in Shohei Ohtani. But the Mets are willing to bet Eppler can improve on that with a second chance, and hiring someone familiar with running a front office became essential after securing a proven winner wasn’t possible. Eppler’s blend of analytics and scouting background also was appealing to the Mets, who recently upped their number of in-house analysts from a half-dozen to 26 under Cohen.
The Mets’ search began with Theo Epstein, Billy Beane and David Stearns as their top three candidates, but the first two quickly bowed out and the third was denied permission to interview. That forced Alderson and Cohen to readjust their expectations for the front-office hire and move to recruit a GM rather than a president of baseball operations. As of now, it’s still unclear what their vision is with Eppler coming on board.
Alderson already has stated this GM hire is likely to be a one-year runway for that person to earn a longer tenure as the Mets reportedly are interested in luring Stearns to be their president of baseball operations when his contract us up in Milwaukee, perhaps by the end of next season.