Billy Eppler Has a Lot of Work Ahead Of Him
How can Eppler tackle the Mets?
It looks as though Billy Eppler, former General Manager of the Angels, is about to become the new GM for the Mets. We don’t need to touch on the Mets’ struggles to find a GM since firing Brodie Van Wagenen last year, but needless to say, they will be very happy to have someone in the role.
I, like many people, not only thought that the Mets would win the NL East in 2021, but also thought they would be serious postseason contenders. Instead, they floundered and finished 77–85.
Much of that probably had to do with the media circus surrounding a New York team trying to compete, but the instability of the front office can’t be denied either.
While an experienced GM will bring some stability, I’m not so sure Eppler can bring the wins that the Mets desperately want. He went 332–376 in five seasons in Anaheim and only finished above 4th once in those five years.
It goes without saying that he will face many unique challenges with this Mets team.
The Current Roster
The roster as it currently stands has some really valuable pieces. Pete Alonso, the Polar Bear, is under team control for the next three years and has locked down his position at first base. He’s played in damn near every game over the last three years with an OPS+ of 138 during that time.
Francisco Lindor is a lot stronger than his 2021 stats of .230/.322/.412 and only 20 home runs show. It was his weakest season by far and it came at an unfortunate time for Mets fans as this was his first year in Queens, but things are bound to improve for him.
Jacob DeGrom was throwing one of the greatest 21st century seasons for a pitcher before elbow inflammation brought him down. 1.08 ERA, 1.24 FIP, 0.554 WHIP, and an ERA+ of 373 are beyond dominant. They need him healthy because he’s one of the best pitchers in the league and can opt-out after next season.
Unfortunately for them, three guys (two of which showed cause for concern last year) does not a winning team make.
OF Michael Conforto turned down the $18.4 million qualifying offer, which shocked no one. I could see them gambling big on Japanese major leaguer Seiya Suzuki who has stated his intention to play in MLB, but RF shouldn’t be their biggest concern right now.
And they’ve already lost Noah Syndergaard to the Angels. Yeah, he only pitched two innings over the last two years, but we know what he can do if he stays healthy. (He will probably be on a short leash in L.A. after coming off of TJ surgery, but they need pitching right now.) The Mets in return will receive two compensatory draft picks next year — one for Conforto (if he signs elsewhere — he will) and one for Syndergaard.
Because of that loss, Marcus Stroman is a must re-sign for NYM right now. He led the league with 33 starts last year and that means one thing: stability. And the Mets rotation desperately needs stability next year. The bullpen was a strong part of their performance last season, but you need a few guys at the top of the rotation who can eat some innings and rest those bullpen guys for when they are really needed. If Syndergaard can get a one-year flyer for $21 mil to prove himself — Stroman has nothing to prove and will be expecting a big payday.
And he’s not the only impending free agent the Mets need to re-sign.
They picked up Javier Báez at the trade deadline, but they wasted him as they went 21–37 from August on. Mets fans, be honest, you don’t want 39-year-old Robinson Cano playing 2B for you every day next year (-4 DRS in 2020) if the universal DH is a part of the new CBA. Bàez can play 2B, SS, and 3B defensively and had an OPS+ of 141 in his brief time in Flushing this year. All of that is worth a solid contract and short-term memory loss in regards to the thumbs down nonsense that took place towards the drop-off in the season.
Who from outside of the organization should they be targeting?
If they are willing to spend, Kris Bryant should be on their radar. He can play third base for them (an infield of Alonso, Báez, Lindor, and Bryant is scary) and could move into the outfield if the matchups needed that. He was an All Star last year and finished the season with an .835 OPS between Chicago and San Francisco. He could also be a mentor (their skills are comparable and both are 3B/OF) for Brett Baty, who is expected to play in The Show in the next two years. He’s one of the three prospects they have in the MLB Top 100, so they need to get him right.
They’ll be looking for outfield help and the previously mentioned rotation stability as well, perhaps on the trade market.
Oh yeah, and they need a manager! It looks like Eppler is favoring a previous manager hire of his in L.A., Brad Ausmus. That, of course, is a bad choice. Ausmus hasn’t really proved himself as a big league manager (386–422 in 6 seasons), so naturally he’s a perfect fit for the Mets.
I will be very interested to watch how this team performs next year. Sure, the Atlanta Braves won the World Series this year, but after a borderline miracle postseason run that followed up an 88-win season. I think that the NL East is still up for grabs this year. The Braves, the Mets, and the Phillies will all have serious off-seasons as they contend for a division title.
Who do you think will win the NL East? What do the Mets need to do this winter to compete next year? What unique challenges will Eppler face? Let me know your thoughts below.
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Stats, as always, are from Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and MLB.com