Thursday, October 5, 2023

Mets GM Billy Eppler Resigns, Wanted To Give Stearns "Clean Slate"

Billy Eppler during a press conference on July 29. Photo by Jason Schott.


Mets General Manager Billy Eppler just announced his resignation in a statement released by the ballclub on Thursday afternoon.

This comes three days after David Stearns took over as the new Mets President of Baseball Operations, and the stepping down of Manager Buck Showalter at the conclusion of the season on Sunday.

"I wanted David to have a clean slate and that meant me stepping down," Eppler said. "I hope for nothing but the best for the entire Mets organization."

Mets Owner, Chairman and CEO Steve Cohen also said in the press release, "Billy Eppler led this team through a 101-win season and postseason berth last year and he will be missed. We accepted Billy's resignation today as he decided it is in everyone's best interest to fully hand over the leadership of Baseball Operations to David Stearns. On behalf of the Mets organization, we wish him all the best."

Eppler started his career in the Yankees front office from 2004 through 2015, where he rose up to be Assistant General Manager, before he spent five years with the Angels as their GM (2016-20), which included signing Shohei Ohtani in 2018. His navigating of Japan to sign Ohtani gave him the necessary knowledge to sign the current Mets ace, Kodai Senga, so you could say that was his greatest achievement in his time in Queens. 

After an exhaustive process, Eppler was named Mets General Manager on November 19, 2021, and he oversaw two seasons that could not have been different. In 2022, with Showalter also entering his first season, and a roster filled with new stars like Max Scherzer, it was a year in which nearly everything went right, as the Mets led the National League East for most of the season before Atlanta snatched it at the end. The 101 wins the Mets had were the second-most in franchise history to the 1986 team's 108, but they became a Wild Card, and the season ended in an instant with a playoff loss to the San Diego Padres. 

The Mets then went on an unprecedented spending spree in the offseason, which saw the club sign ace pitcher Justin Verlander, and give extensions to center fielder Brandon Nimmo and 2022 National League Batting Champion Jeff McNeil. This season, which basically began with closer Edwin Diaz lost to a knee injury for the season, was one that never really got going, and Eppler conducted a fire sale at the trade deadline, trading Scherzer, other star pitcher Justin Verlander, and other veterans, with the focus immediately turning to rebuilding.

On Monday, during Stearns' introductory press conference, Cohen was asked about Eppler's future, and if him staying on as General Manager was built into Stearns' hiring, and he said, "Well, I mean, it's my goal to build up the management talent in this organization. I mean, Baseball Operations is pretty complicated, I mean, there's a lot of moving parts. You know, building up a strong management team is paramount to me, so I view it as 1 and 1 equals 3, okay."

In fairness to Eppler, he probably could see this wasn't going to work with Stearns that what would appear to be a cooperative work setting would likely lead to contentions over player personnel, strategy, and possibly, who the new Manager will be. It's also not unthinkable that Eppler, 48, wants to leave himself open to run another team's front office.

This also opens the door to the return of Buck Showalter. Reports this week have indicated he butted heads with Eppler over the reliance on analytics, which isn't surprising considering Showalter did not have the same pep day-to-day as he did in 2022. These were, in retrospect, tucked into comments like his approach to doubleheaders, which he said on May 21 before one against Cleveland, “I don’t bite off something before we get there. You want to make everybody laugh, tell them about your plans, it could change within the next two hours, probably will. That’s why I don’t post two lineups; I’ve never had something not happen in Game 1 of a doubleheader that changed the way I had to look at Game 2. I love when these people send these lineups over a day or two in advance, or the whole doubleheader. I know it’s coming, sure enough, they have to change it every time!”

Showalter was let go by Cohen on Sunday to clear the decks for Stearns to name his own Manager. Stearns then revealed on Monday that, because he was still employed by Milwaukee through the end of the regular season, he wanted to reach out to Buck. That would lead one to believe that Showalter could wind up coming back as Manager, but as Stearns’ choice and likely with a fresh contract, instead of entering 2024 as a lame duck. If that doesn’t come to pass, Showalter could be a part of the front office, as Stearns (probably Cohen too) likely would not want that baseball intellect leaving Citi Field.

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