Earlier today, the Mets introduced Billy Eppler as the 16th general manager in franchise history. The press conference comes at the end of what Sandy Alderson referred to as an “exhaustive process” that saw them talk ”to many people”. The original goal was for the club to hire a President of Baseball Operations and a general manager, but instead Alderson will essentially serve as the POBO with Eppler as the team’s GM after failing at hiring the former.
Alderson led off the festivities by touting Eppler’s 20 years of experience in the league, including his nearly ten years of work with the Yankees and his six seasons serving as GM of the Angels. Given the complexity of the hiring process, which saw a number of high profile people turn the club down, Alderson affirmed that Eppler was the only individual who received an offer from the franchise. He concluded by assuring the audience of reporters, as well as the fans watching from home, that this was the deepest vetting process he has ever been a part of, which included speaking to everyone from Eppler’s coworkers to the media that he worked with. This comes on the heels of the club’s prior hiring problems, including their ill-fated hire of Jared Porter last winter. Later in the presser, Cohen mentioned that, at the recent owners meeting, the Eppler hire received universal praise from everybody he spoke with.
In his opening remarks, Eppler expressed his gratitude to Steve and Alex Cohen for giving him the opportunity, and spoke extremely highly of the Mets’ fanbase. He specifically reminisced about his first experience as a spectator at Shea Stadium in 2005, where he saw first-hand the electricity of the environment. He discussed the role of baseball operations as something that is meant to serve the fans, and noted that he takes the duty to the fanbase very seriously. If nothing else, he said the right things about the devotion to the fanbase in his efforts to build a championship-caliber club.
Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the question-and-answer portion focused on the herculean task at hand in turning an underachieving team into a contender. Eppler spoke mostly in generalities, noting that they will be active both on the free agent market and on the trade market, and will look for opportunities on both fronts, specifically in addressing the outfield. When asked about the type of manager he is looking, he said he would meet with his team to develop a list based on the qualifications they are for in a skipper and would start moving quickly to fill the vacancy. He discussed changing the culture in the locker room, which he said begins with the coaching staff setting the example for the players to follow.
Early on, Deesha Thosar of the Daily News asked ta question on everybody’s mind: “Both you and Sandy have stated a commitment to changing the culture of the Mets. With all due respect to Billy, in his last role, he ran an organization that brought in Mickey Callaway, and saw a high-ranking employee indicted for providing opiates to players. How do you reconcile the two, and have you talked about that with Billy?” Cohen responded by saying that Eppler was vetted and that they are comfortable with his decision-making, ethics, and integrity while adding that he was just one person within the organization. When asked later to reflect on his hire of Callaway, Eppler himself said the industry vetting process continues to evolve, and that the Angels organization had to answer for that.
One thing that both Eppler and Cohen reiterated was that the new GM will have the resources necessary to succeed. Cohen highlighted the lack of prospects who are available to help the major league roster, meaning that the club will need to essentially spend their way out of their problems. With the payroll already at $185 million, Cohen is aware of their current spot, and he said one of the lessons he will take from his first year as owner is to put the right people in decision-making positions, give them the resources to succed, and then sit back and let them run the club. Eppler, meanwhile, learned about the importance of depth, noting several moments in Los Angeles where a lack of depth negatively affected his team. He will look to build roster depth with the Mets, specifically with the starting rotation. He will aim to take big swings in free agency in order to maximize the club’s World Series odds.
As Mets fans have learned over the past few years, thanks to a number of press conferences for GMs, managers, presidents, and owners, talk is cheap and only actions matter. While Eppler, Alderson, and Cohen all said the right things, it will be up to them to follow through on their lofty promises. With Cohen all but promising that the Mets would win a title early on in his tenure, he will need to give Eppler the freedom to spend to make the team an immediate contender.