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The New York Mets have reportedly found their next general manager, ending a process that lasted more than a month and saw the team strike out with prominent executives across MLB.
The team is finalizing a deal with former Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal had previously reported the Mets offering the job to Eppler, who is currently working in the baseball division of talent agency WME.
In Eppler, the Mets are getting an executive with five years of experience running a team in a big market and who built up scouting bona fides with the New York Yankees, though there are reasons to doubt the pick.
Mets' new GM struggled with Angels
The Angels fired Eppler following the 2020 season, ending a five-year tenure that saw the team go a combined 332-376 (a .469 winning percentage) and never once make the playoffs. That was despite having the consensus best player in the sport, Mike Trout, for all five years, and this year's likely MVP, Shohei Ohtani, for two of them, though both of those players have had recent injury issues.
Ohtani represents Eppler's biggest victory in Anaheim, as he led the effort to persuade the two-way star to sign with the Angels despite interest from teams across baseball.
The Angels' bigger problem under Eppler was finding even a league-average pitching staff. In non-pandemic shortened seasons, the only Angels to qualify for the ERA title were Jered Weaver in 2016 (with a 5.06 ERA), and Ricky Nolasco (4.92) and Andrew Heaney in 2018 (4.15).
There were also well-known off-field issues with the Angels during that span, the most notable being the death of Tyler Skaggs and the resulting allegations that a team staffer was dealing narcotics. There was also the hiring of former Mets manager Mickey Callaway as pitching coach, a tenure that ended with a sexual harassment investigation.
Eppler will be walking into a vastly different situation in New York, but there are reasons why the Mets only landed on him now.
The Mets' general manager search has been a mess
Say this for the Mets, they aimed high while trying to find a new person to run their baseball operations.
The team found itself with such a vacancy after the departures of general manager Jared Porter, who was fired following allegations of sexual harassment of a female reporter, and interim general manager Zack Scott, who was pushed out following a DUI charge.
Under new owner Steve Cohen, the team immediately looked into some of the biggest names in baseball, with no success. Billy Beane withdrew his name from consideration early in the process. As did Theo Epstein. The Milwaukee Brewers wouldn't let the Mets come close to their president of baseball operations, David Stearns, who's still under contract.
So the team looked elsewhere, and found a similar level of interest before landing on Eppler:
My current tally of people the Mets have struck out on for their front office:
- Theo Epstein
- Billy Beane
- David Stearns
- Brandon Gomes
- Matt Arnold
- Peter Bendix
- Michael Girsch
- Scott Harris
- Sig Mejdal
- Raquel Ferreira
- Daniel Adler
- Jean Afterman
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) November 5, 2021
To get a sense of where the Mets' search was before Eppler, the Mets had been recently signaling their interest in former Washington Nationals assistant general manager Adam Cromie, who has not worked in baseball in four years.
Cohen's handling of the job had been thoroughly second-guessed, especially after it was reported he was mostly speaking with former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and acquaintances at his Point72 hedge fund about the job. Mets president Sandy Alderson defended his boss by positing that candidates were intimidated by the big stage of New York.
The search had gone on long enough that Alderson, who is supposed to run the team's business operations, had to represent the Mets at MLB's general manager meetings. The team is also still looking for a manager after firing Luis Rojas, something that figures to be high on Eppler's to-do list.
The Mets job is theoretically a good one — a large-market team with baseball's richest owner and plenty of intriguing talent already on board. The actual reality under Cohen has been less pleasant one season in. The billionaire hasn't been afraid to live-tweet his frustrations with the team, especially after their collapse from first place in the NL East to below .500.
Eppler struggled in his previous job. The Mets are hoping he bucks that history, as well as their own, in his next job.