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Mets GM Billy Eppler shows his belief in positional flexibility with first signings

Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler speaks

Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler speaks to reporters during the Major League Baseball General Manager Meetings Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Carlsbad, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) Credit: AP/Gregory Bull

It was only the first night of December, but on Wednesday the Mets introduced a buzzword that is poised to be a theme of their next year and beyond: positional flexibility.

"I’m a huge advocate of it. I love players that can play multiple positions," general manager Billy Eppler said. "I love players that can play on the dirt and the grass, too. It opens up so many different options for the manager."

Those comments came during a video news conference that served as an introduction for their newest hitters: Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar. They represent one-third of the starting lineup for the 2022 Mets, but which position each will play is an open question — and may well remain one day-to-day next season.

Marte, for example, mostly has been a centerfielder in recent years, but Eppler didn’t commit to him being the everyday option over Brandon Nimmo, who played well there last season. Canha, similarly, is mostly a leftfielder but has managed at all three outfield spots plus first base. And Escobar is an option at second or third.

"It’s fair to say that Eduardo’s going to accumulate a boatload of plate appearances, and he can do that at a number of positions," Eppler said, expressing a sentiment of the whole trio.

Canha said: "I’ll play wherever you need me. In the past, I’ve filled in when guys have needed day off or guys are hurt. I’ve always embraced that role and taken pride in my athleticism."

Of this bunch, Marte received the largest contract, four years and $78 million. Canha ($26.5 million) and Escobar ($20 million) each got two-year deals.

"All are joining a rejuvenated Mets team that is ready to compete in 2022," team president Sandy Alderson said.

Eppler added: "Adding somebody as dynamic as Starling [Marte] was seen as critical."

The Mets might be in the market for another starting-caliber position player, but they aren’t desperate. But it is worth noting that Kris Bryant, among the best hitters still available, plays five positions: third base, leftfield, centerfield, rightfield and first base.

"Ultimately, what we’re going to try to do is continue to improve the club," Eppler said. "That can be done in a number of ways, whether that’s done with another pitcher — another pitcher or two — whether it’s starting or relief. Do feel pretty good about his position-player group but want to remain opportunistic as we navigate the rest of the winter."

Oh yeah, a manager

With player transactions coming to a halt with the anticipated lockout Thursday, the Mets will be able to catch their breath — and, don’t forget, hire a manager.

Eppler said he will begin interviewing candidates shortly and expected to discuss with owner Steve Cohen the front office’s preferred criteria by Thursday morning. So far the team has "a pretty wide" list of names, according to Eppler.

"I've had a couple different volleys already with Sandy [Alderson] on the subject," he said. "It's coming through and we'll start the process of actually formally interviewing people very soon."

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