New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler is certainly feeling good about the Mets’ 20-10 start to the season. After all, many of the moves he made, from signing Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, and others as free agents and trading for Chris Bassitt have energized the fan base, but a life of humility and failure has led to Eppler becoming a better baseball mind and the Mets are glad he signed up to be the team’s general manager.
Eppler learned it takes more than superstars to build a winning roster, and the Mets have new stars and key contributors on the 2022 roster
Eppler was certainly known for making splash moves with the Los Angeles Angels during his five years as general manager. He negotiated the largest contract extension ever with Mike Trout, giving him a cool $426.5 million extension that sets him up for life, such that the contract expires in 2030. He also won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes in 2017, and he brought in All-Stars like Justin Upton and Anthony Rendon to Anaheim along the way.
But the top-heavy rosters almost never win championships. Angels fans felt their ownership has wasted some prime years of Trout, a 3-time MVP and future first-ballot Hall of Famer and generational talent and Ohtani, who won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2018 and league MVP in 2021.
Granted, he never got the requisite resources in scouting and player development under the poor leadership of owner Arte Moreno who refused to scrutinize the value of pitching. That was the Angels’ weak spot the last few years, although it has gotten better under their current general manager Perry Minasian (see the strong starts of ex-Mets Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Loup).
But the Mets saw in him that he wasn’t shy in investing money on great players, which fit well into Steve Cohen's philosophy of winning. And that's why the team felt Eppler was the right guy for the job at the time.
Eppler received resources from Cohen to not only sign future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer, but also other key players like Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha, but also trading for another front-line starting pitcher in Chris Bassitt. He also found hidden contributors in Travis Jankowski and Chasen Shreve following the lockout.
Cohen has also allowed him freer rein in baseball decisions. When it was time to trim the rosters from 28 players to 26, designating Robinson Cano for assignment (and subsequently releasing him on Sunday) was the obvious decision over sending Jankowski or Dom Smith down to the minors. And surely enough Eppler had the guts to pull that trigger and end Cano’s tumultuous tenure in Flushing.
The manager matters, and Eppler hired the perfect one, bringing in Buck Showalter to coach the Mets
After three years together with longtime team skipper Mike Scioscia, Eppler got to handpick his first manager, hiring Brad Ausmus to manage the Angels before the 2019 season. Ausmus was subsequently fired after just one season, posting a 72-90 record that season, a year where the Angels had lofty preseason expectations following the Trout contract extension.
But after the Mets hired him to be the general manager, he needed to get the managerial hire right this time, and surely enough, he did, bringing in Buck Showalter, and boy, has the soon-to-be 66-year-old skipper delivered the goods immediately, changing the culture in dramatic fashion after a winter of promise.
And now, 142 days after Steve Cohen announced the hire, the Mets are sitting on a commanding six game lead in the division one month into the season.