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Luis Rojas: Where do NY Mets go now for manager position?Mets beat writer Justin Toscano discusses why the Mets decided to part ways with Luis Rojas, and where the team goes next.Justin Toscano, NorthJersey.com

After many twists and turns, with tons of rejections along the way, you might have thought the Mets would end up hiring someone whose name you had never heard. 

In that way, they surprised. 

They had to go far down their list of names — and pivoted from searching for a president of baseball operations to looking for a general manager — but they found someone with previous experience who hasn't been out of the game for long. 

The club on Thursday announced it hired Billy Eppler, the Angels' former general manger, to be the 16th GM in Mets history. The 46-year-old Eppler had been helping lead the baseball division at WME, an agency. 

Eppler signed a four-year contract. 

“I’m so thankful to (owner) Steve (Cohen) and (president) Sandy (Alderson) for what I consider an opportunity of a lifetime,” Eppler said in a release. “We have a lot of work to do and will systematically begin to work towards our goal of building a perennial winner."

Eppler spent time as a Yankees assistant general manager under Brian Cashman before the Angels hired him to be their general manager in 2015. But long before that, he joined the Yankees in 2004 as their assistant director of baseball operations. In 2006, they promoted him to director of pro scouting. In 2010, he moved to senior director of professional personnel. 

Eppler, who graduated from the University of Connecticut with a finance degree in 1998 and began his career as an intern in the Washington Football Team's scouting department, joined the Rockies in 2000 as an area scouting supervisor. They promoted him to director of pro scouting and player development in 2003. 

“Billy has the experience, character, and respect of the baseball community that will allow him to attract the players and front office talent to lead the Mets forward,” Mets owner Steve Cohen said in a release. “He is a leader who has worked in two of baseball’s biggest markets and his talents and personality will move us closer to my goal of sustained success.”

Billy Eppler: What to know about next Mets general manager

The Angels in 2020 fired Eppler after five straight losing seasons, but now he has another chance. 

It comes with pressure: The Mets, led by owner Steve Cohen, want to contend — now. They have Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo. They do have needs to address this offseason, but they are far from a rebuilding team. 

“Over the past two decades, Billy has been a scout and an assistant GM. He’s also more than familiar with the New York market. This uniquely qualifies him to lead our efforts going forward,” Mets president Sandy Alderson said. “He’s smart, he hustles and has a keen eye for identifying talent. He’s going to make us better. I am really pleased that we have someone of his caliber leading the Mets.”

The good news for the Mets is this: Eppler has experience in baseball, and as a GM, so the learning curve shouldn't be steep, if it exists at all. With the baseball calendar rolling along, Eppler will need to attack a few priorities quickly.

The hire could draw criticism, though. Eppler did not succeed in Anaheim — if only looking at his 332-376 record as GM there — but it's fair to note that Angels owner Arte Moreno is known as someone for whom it could be difficult to work.  Eppler's clubs included Mike Trout and eventually Shohei Ohtani, but the Angels never won more than 80 games during his tenure. 

In his time there, Eppler also hired Mickey Callaway, the former Mets manager who is now on baseball's ineligible list due to inappropriate conduct toward multiple female reporters. 

As Angels GM, Eppler did do well in some respects. He signed Trout to a contract extension and helped secure the commitment of Ohtani, a two-way star from Japan who is an AL MVP finalist (and could very well win the award). He also signed third baseman Anthony Rendon to a long-term deal after the star player won a ring with the Nationals. 

He put together a team that looked like it could've taken the next step. It just never did. 

That'll be his challenge with the Mets, who have not reached the postseason since 2016. They spent three months in first place this past season but still finished with a losing record. They're amidst an important offseason for their direction. 

Once the season ended, the Mets began searching for a president of baseball operations. They went from Theo Epstein to Billy Beane and David Stearns, but landed none. They continued going down their list, but names like Scott Harris (Giants GM), Matt Arnold (Brewers GM), Mike Girsch (Cardinals GM) and others also withdrew their names from consideration. It sounds as if the Mets didn't receive permission to speak to everyone they wanted to talk to about this position, like Stearns. 

"Front offices have become of incredible importance to the success of organizations," Alderson said at the GM meetings. "I don’t think there’s any questions about that. I think some clubs are rightfully protective of those they have and those they don’t want to lose. So from that standpoint, I can’t criticize other clubs for protecting what they view now and I think have viewed over the last several years as an important part of their overall operation and success."

But Alderson also mentioned something else: Not everyone wants to work in New York. He admitted being "a little surprised" at the amount of executives who rejected the Mets, but added that he understands why some folks wouldn't want to take the risk. 

Still, there were other concerns.

Alderson's presence in the front office — even if he has publicly said he doesn't want to be involved in the day-to-day baseball operations duties — could have concerned potential candidates. Cohen is also known as someone who could be tough on employees, a reputation he earned leading his successful hedge fund. Then there's the idea, which Alderson didn't dismiss, that the Mets' hire might only receive a one-year audition as the top decision-maker before the team searches for a president of baseball operations again next offseason. 

But all along, it seemed someone should want this job. 

The Mets have a roster that isn't far from contention. They reside in the country's largest market. Through extending Francisco Lindor and other decisions, like expanding the analytics department, Cohen has shown a desire to win now. Multiple factors made this job desirable. 

"If you're looking to be comfortable, the Mets are probably not the place to come," Alderson said. "If you're looking to be challenged and rewarded – because I don't think there's any doubt that this team is going to be successful over the next X number of years – then go for it."

Two months ago, Eppler joined an agency — a switch to the other side of the negotiating table. 

Now he's back on his original side, looking to rewrite his legacy as an executive with another chance at being a GM. This time, it comes in a pressure-filled situation in the biggest market in the country. 

Justin Toscano is the Mets beat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Mets analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and download our app.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @justinctoscano 

Source : https://www.dailyrecord.com/story/sports/mlb/mets/2021/11/15/ny-mets-get-billy-eppler-general-manager/8634076002/

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