Billy Eppler joined Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman on a New York Post podcast to discuss the New York Mets offseason plans. In reviewing the podcast, Eppler didn’t say anything really all the surprising, which we should expect from a seasoned front office executive.
The Mets want Edwin Diaz to return. They also want Brandon Nimmo, but if they can’t keep him they will consider Starling Marte in center. They want and can keep Jacob deGrom. Basically, everything you expect is in there inclusive of Eppler saying he is in charge of the baseball operations.
That’s where things get a little dicey based on past performance.
In 2014, Jerry Dipoto built a Los Angeles Angels team which finished atop the American League West division before they were swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. Unfortunately for him, he clashed with Mike Scioscia, and he lost leading to him resigning the following season. That led to Billy Eppler’s hiring.
When Eppler took over, he had Mike Trout, but he already had that albatross Albert Pujols contract. It was a roster that was somewhat flawed, but it had a good, young, and emerging starting staff with Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, and Andrew Heaney. They also had a very good bullpen with Huston Street, Joe Smith, and Fernando Salas.
In many ways, this was a great job to have. There were pieces in place to make the Angels a winner and a deep pocketed owner. There is the caveat the farm system was not great, but overall, this was a good job to have. Well, while it looked like it was a good job to have, things would completely unravel.
The Andrelton Simmons trade did not pan out as he had hoped. That would become a habit for him with the same happening in future years with Cameron Maybin, Danny Espinosa, and Ian Kinsler. His signings never really panned out with Justin Upton never working out for the team. He began dabbling on the fringes of the pitching markets getting players like Matt Harvey for far too much while eschewing the higher priced and more established starters.
Making matters worse was the Angels farm system never really improved under Eppler. They were bad when he took over, and when he left, they were still bad. During his tenure, he never really had a player he drafted come up to the majors and be an impact player for him.
All told, Eppler only had three real accomplishments. First, he signed Trout to an extension. Second, he landed Shohei Ohtani. Finally, he did what Dipoto wasn’t able to do by outlasting Scioscia. Despite all that, his tenure was largely a disappointment and failure.
With the Mets, the good news is he built a very strong roster in his first season. He added Chris Bassitt, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte, and Max Scherzer. His peripheral moves to address the bullpen like Adam Ottavino worked. All told, it was a 101 win team that tied atop the NL East (still losing the division due to Rob Manfred’s gimmick rules and postseason).
In year one, we saw Eppler have a stronger offseason than he ever had in any year with the Angels. Part of that was Cohen having the checkbook to add players like Marte and Scherzer. With Joely Rodriguez, Tyler Naquin, and Darin Ruf, you saw he still has a lot of work left to do in terms of trades, we should give him a lot of credit for Bassitt.
Overall, it is still difficult to ascertain if Eppler has learned from his previous mistakes and errors as the Angels GM. What we do know is Cohen is a better owner with more money than Arte Moreno. We also know the Mets have a far better farm system with Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos nearly ready to be Major League contributors.
Put another way, we are going to learn a lot about Eppler this offseason. We will see how he handles players like deGrom, Diaz, and Nimmo. We will see how he address the Mets need for power while having contracts like Canha and Daniel Vogelbach seemingly standing in the way of doing that.
This is a critical offseason for the Mets and Eppler. This offseason will go a long way to determining if the Mets can contend in 2023 and beyond until the farm is fully up to speed to provide depth to the Major League roster. It will also go a long way in determining just how good of a GM Eppler truly can be.
With Opening Day already behind us, it is now time to look forward to see how the rest of the 2017 season will progress. Yes, this is the typically ill-fated projections post. As with anything else, this will likely be wrong by season’s end, and with any luck, I will be reminded of it come October.
AL East – Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox won the division last year with an MVP caliber season from Mookie Betts, Rick Porcello with a more ways than one surprising Cy Young season, and lots of young talent. The team will be hurt by the loss of David Ortiz, but they will be helped by the addition of Chris Sale, who should help boost a rotation that has David Price as a question mark. Considering the rest of the AL East downgraded as well, it it fair to surmise the downgraded Red Sox roster will stay on top.
AL Central – Cleveland Indians
So, the American League Pennant winners add Edwin Encarnacion, get Michael Brantley back, and return Carlos Correa from injury? That’s the rich getting richer. This team is poised to not only win the division again, but they should be poised to return to the World Series.
AL West – Texas Rangers
This team is truly going to benefit from a full season of Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate, and they are also going to benefit from a full season from Yu Darvish. Combine that with a good bullpen, an excellent manager in Jeff Banister, and veteran leaders in Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, you have a team that will get the most of its roster and be able to win those close and tight games like they did last year.
AL Wild Card 1 – Houston Astros
The Astros will probably lose the division due to the lack of depth in their starting pitching. However, with a deep lineup that has George Springer–Alex Bregman–Jose Altuve–Carlos Correa–Carlos Beltran as their top five hitters. Combine that with Beltran’s leadership and mentoring of young players, and this is a team that will give the Rangers all they can give them.
AL Wild Card 2 – Seattle Mariners
The Mariners fell heartbreakingly short last season, and they have improved the roster with Jerry DiPoto suddenly becoming Trader Jack McKeon. To name a few, the Mariners added Jean Segura, Yovani Gallardo, and Drew Smyly to what was already a pretty good team with Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager.
NL East – New York Mets
The Nationals are certainly more formidable than they were last year with them having a full year of Trea Turner and with the Adam Eaton acquisition. However, on the pitching side, they do not have the depth they typically have, and that is an issue with Stephen Strasburg‘s medical history and Max Scherzer having questionable health entering the season. Ultimately, it is the Mets depth that should carry the team over the Nationals in what promises to be a tight race.
NL Central – Chicago Cubs
They won the World Series last year, and they get Kyle Schwarber back into the lineup everyday and add Wade Davis to the bullpen. The real question is not whether they win the division, but whether they get to 100 wins again.
NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers
Like with the National League East, the top two teams are very close, and it’s picking hairs to separate them. If you look at it Clayton Kershaw is better than Madison Bumgarner. Kenley Jansen is better than Mark Melancon. Johnny Cueto is better than another other pitcher the Dodgers have, but the Dodgers have a deeper rotation than the Giants. The Dodgers also arguably have the deeper lineup. If it goes in the reverse, no one should be surprised, but ultimately, the Dodgers appear better on paper.
NL Wild Card 1 – San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Card 2 – Washington Nationals
While the team is not deep and has some issues, there are real strengths. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are as good and as clutch a 3-4 combination as there is. The bullpen with Koda Glover, Joe Blanton, Shawn Kelley, and Blake Treinen could be dominant. Again, their only real question is health.
AL Wild Card Game – Postseason Beltran and the Astros offense overcomes King Felix in his first ever postseason start.
ALDS – In what proves to be a slugfest, the better Astros lineup carries them past the Red Sox. In the other ALDS matchup, the Indians pitching, including the unleashing of Andrew Miller proves to be too much for the Rangers.
ALCS – The Indians pitching proves to be too much for a hot hitting Astros team leading them to consecutive World Series appearances.
NL Wild Card Game – Pick your reason: (1) Bumgarner; or (2) it’s technically a postseason series.
NLDS – This year, the Giants with an improved bullpen won’t be denied as Cueto and Bumgarner led the Giants past the Cubs. The Mets and the Dodgers 2015 NLDS matchup is not as intense as the Dodgers only have Kershaw to match the Mets aces leaving the Mets to be able to get past them a little easier this go-round.
NLCS – Bumgarner and Cueto are offset by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. After that, the Mets can pick from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler, or maybe even Seth Lugo. You’d probably take any of them over the Giants next best starter Jeff Samardzija. As such, the Mets pitching outlasts the Giants pitching.