On Friday afternoon, Billy Eppler was officially introduced as the Mets’ general manager.
He spoke about how he’ll view the Mets’ offense and his rough times with the Los Angeles Angels, while Sandy Alderson discussed how his role with the team will change with Eppler leading the way at Citi Field.
Here are some takeaways from Friday’s news conference…
On how Eppler will evaluate the offense
The Mets had a ton of underperformance on offense, and Steve Cohen said that building a winning team will require some free agent spending and trades.
Eppler needs to figure out if that was a fluke, or if that’s actually what some of those players are.
“The process that we’ll look at when evaluating our offense is what are the underlying process metrics that are kind of driving their performance. Was their an element of unluckiness? Do we expect that maybe the numbers on the back of the baseball card are maybe not, in fact, the real numbers that we would expect from that player to contribute?”
Eppler also hinted at the type of hitters he wants in Queens.
“I guess the framework for players that I tend to gravitate to – and I don’t think this is really that unique or proprietary, because it’s become kind of mainstay in baseball – but… looking for players that are really good decision makers in the batter’s box. They understand swing decisions, and if the ball is over the white, they’re ready to attack it. So a little bit more of a patient but aggressive approach at the same time. Obviously, as far as team building is concerned in general, we’re just gonna really try to grow the run differential of club as much as we can.”
On scandals with the Angels
After Mickey Callaway and the Mets parted ways, he went to the Angels to be their pitching coach, under Eppler. But about a year later, it came to light that Callaway had sexually harassed several women throughout his time in Cleveland, New York, and Anaheim – he was subsequently placed on baseball’s ineligible list, and can apply for reinstatement after the 2022 season.
In 2019, then-Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died of a drug overdose while Eppler was the GM, and a high-ranking employee of the Angels was indicted on charges in which he supplied drugs to players.
Both Cohen and Sandy Alderson have spoken in large about changing the culture in New York, and they believe that Eppler can do that, despite what happened with the Angels.
“We’ve done our due diligence,” Cohen said. “It’s an organization, and Billy’s just one person in that organization. We vetted it in multiple ways, we spoke to a lot of people that were around the organization at that time, we spoke to people within baseball, and we’re incredibly comfortable with Billy and his decision-making and his ethics and his integrity.”
“The industry in general…” added Eppler, “has a vetting process that’s evolved, and we have greater resources because of it. In general, the Angels organization has been asked and had answered for it. There’s not really anything more specific I can add today. Just that that industry vetting process has evolved.
On how Alderson’s role will change with Eppler in the organization
Alderson has mentioned in the past his desire to be less involved in baseball decisions when a new general manager came about. That still seems to be the case, although he said he will be “available” whenever Eppler seeks his advice.
“Billy will be reporting to me, but… I expect Billy to be driving this operation. I will be available as a resource, and as time goes on, what I would expect is that Billy will have even more latitude than he will have immediately. But as time goes on, I would expect that that latitude will expand and that my role will diminish. I don’t expect to be heavily involved, but I will be available to Billy and whatever input he desires, I’ll provide. And as time goes on, his role will expand.”
Alderson also mentioned that despite initially wanting to hire two people in baseball ops this offseason (one president, one GM), there is a chance that Eppler could be the lone hire even beyond this season.
On any potential trades with Yankees GM and former colleague Brian Cashman
Eppler worked with the Yankees from 2004 to 2015 as a professional scouting director until 2011 and assistant GM under Cashman, whom he called a “mentor,” through the 2015 season.
The Mets and Yankees hardly ever make trades, and honestly, with Eppler at the helm, any chances may be even lower.
“Over the years, we never made any trades, even when I was with the Angels, and I think it’s because we maybe have similar methodologies when it comes to evaluating players, which wouldn’t be a shocker. I’m not really expecting to do a lot of transactions.”
“But as far as dialogue, we have regular dialogue. I think even over the past year, we don’t go a week without talking to each other. He was a tremendous mentor to me and someone that means a lot… As far as Brian’s impact on me, it’s been monumental, and I appreciate him for that.”
On operating with a potential lockout looming
The current CBA expires as the clock strikes midnight on the morning of Dec. 2, putting just about everything surrounding baseball up in the air.
But Eppler said he received “a lot” of texts from agents on Thursday night and was going to get back to them on Friday, while hinting that he wants to hire a manager sooner rather than later.
“I don’t expect it to be done overnight, or even be done in the next week, and I know we’re about to embark on a holiday week, but starting to have those conversations and carve out time each day to meet a candidate, I think can be done simultaneously [with trying to acquire players].”
However, a potential lockout is less than two weeks away. Cohen said he’s leaving the negotiations up to the commissioner, and Eppler admitted his usual offseason operation could have plenty of changes, but he’s ready for them,
“If we’re faced with a period where we have to kind of move that order of operations around… coming in day one to an organization,” said Eppler, “I have to do a lot of listening and lot of listening to learn. That’s what I would spend all of my time doing.”