Sports | November 16, 2021 11:46 am

Middling Mets Fill GM Role With Exec Who Ran Consistent Underachiever With Bloated Payroll

Hiring ex-Angels GM Billy Eppler makes all the sense in the world, at least in Queens

Ex-Angels general manager Billy Eppler answers questions
Ex-Angels general manager Billy Eppler answers questions during a press conference.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty

Prior to the Los Angeles Angels agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with former New York right-hander Noah Syndergaard to bolster their pitching staff, the Mets reached an agreement with a former member of LA’s front office who should be a good fit in Flushing based on his track record of turning big spending into mediocre success.

Hired as the general manager of the Angels in October 2015, the Mets’ new GM Billy Eppler oversaw a middling ballclub that combined for a 332-376 record while he was at the helm before being fired on the final day of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Under Eppler, the Angels never finished better than 80-82 and never made the playoffs despite getting two MVP seasons from Mike Trout and adding Shohei Ohtani to LA’s star-studded roster.

Injuries, poor pitching and the 2019 overdose death of Tyler Skaggs can’t be blamed on Eppler, but multiple free-agent busts and an inability to get a team that’s worth more than $2 billion and is consistently one of the league’s top spenders with a home base in one of baseball’s top markets to perform certainly can be.

In 46-year-old Eppler, who spent 10 years in New York working his way up from a scout to Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman’s right-hand man, perhaps the underachieving Mets — who haven’t made the playoffs since 2016 — see something of themselves: unrealized, and pricey, potential.

“I think Billy’s fantastic,” Cashman said last week at MLB’s GM meetings, per The New York Post. “Anybody who knows me knows my relationship with him. I was lucky to have him working with us. He guided us greatly. I know how good Billy really is … His name should pop into anything that pops up. He’s that talented.”

We’ll see.

In the Mets, Eppler takes over a team that already boasts the fifth-costliest roster in MLB in terms of committed salary entering a 2022 season that may be greatly complicated by the unresolved collective bargaining agreement. Helping heal a team the year after it became the first in MLB history to spend 103 days in first place and finish the year below .500 will be no easy task and Eppler will try to pull it off while being scrutinized in New York, not LA.

“The Angels did not draft and develop the way they envisioned they would when they hired Eppler,” according to The Athletic. “The Mets have viewed their own player development as lacking of late, and they’re in the midst of reshuffling and hiring there for the third time in four offseasons. In that regard, it’s a bit of a surprise they didn’t prioritize someone with a better track record in that specific area.”

Is it? Sounds par for the course in Queens.