Mets managerial candidates for 2021

NEW YORK — Under different circumstances, hiring a manager would be the Mets’ top priority. And while it’s true that the Mets are eager to name Luis Rojas’ replacement, their hiring of general manager Billy Eppler came so relatively late in the offseason that they pivoted aggressively to player acquisitions. That has made the managerial hiring something of a second-tier issue.

Still, a hire is likely to happen sooner rather than later. Here’s a look at some possible candidates for the job:

Brad Ausmus
Resume: Angels manager (2019); Tigers manager (2014-17); Team Israel manager (2012); 18-year playing career

As soon as the Mets named Eppler their GM, Ausmus became an obvious managerial candidate. It was Eppler who hired Ausmus as Angels manager before the 2019 season, and although that arrangement lasted only one year, that was mostly because Angels owner Arte Moreno reportedly wanted to hire Joe Maddon once he became available. If Eppler liked Ausmus once, he’s liable to like him again. It’s also worth noting that Ausmus is a Dartmouth College alumnus, just like Mets president Sandy Alderson and his son, assistant GM Bryn Alderson. And Ausmus spent one year managing new Mets pitcher Max Scherzer, with Detroit in 2014, providing a common thread between those two and Eppler.

The downside is that Ausmus holds a losing record over five seasons as a Major League manager, including multiple 90-loss seasons.

Joe Espada
Resume: Marlins third-base coach (2010-13); Yankees third-base coach (2015-17); Astros bench coach (2018-present)

A ubiquitous managerial candidate in recent years, Espada interviewed for the Angels job that went to Ausmus, the Rangers job that went to Chris Woodward, the Giants job that went to Gabe Kapler and the Cubs job that went to David Ross. Perhaps New York is the place where the well-liked Espada will break through and earn his first managerial gig. With more than a decade’s worth of experience in big league dugouts, Espada understands the role’s responsibilities well despite never having served in it. He does have some brief experience managing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, and he twice served as third-base coach for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. But would Eppler hire him over the more experienced Ausmus?

Eric Chávez
Resume: Yankees executive (2015); Angels executive (2016-18); Angels minor league manager (2018); 17-year playing career

Chávez and Eppler have a relationship going back more than a decade to when Eppler — then a Yankees executive — scouted and brought the longtime A’s slugger to the Bronx. Eppler later played a role in shepherding Chávez into both the Yankees and Angels front offices. He and Eppler are clearly close. However, outside of a roughly two-month stint as the interim manager for Anaheim’s Triple-A affiliate, Chávez features virtually no professional coaching experience. An up-and-comer who simply needs experience, Chávez (who turns 44 this month) interviewed for the Angels job that went to Ausmus in 2019, and he recently interviewed for a job on the Yankees’ coaching staff.

Buck Showalter
Resume: Yankees manager (1992-95); D-backs manager (1998-2000); Rangers manager (2003-06); Orioles manager (2010-18)

If the Mets are looking for experience, Showalter possesses more than any other realistic candidate (as well as more than many active managers combined). When the Angels were looking to replace Ausmus prior to the 2019 season, Eppler reportedly recommended Showalter to Moreno. He’s adept with the media and understands New York as well as anyone, having managed there for four seasons. But concerns exist. In his last stop in Baltimore, Showalter produced just four winning years in eight full seasons on the job. His last winning record came in 2016, when he absorbed significant criticism for not using All-Star closer Zack Britton in a Wild Card Game that the Orioles lost. There’s also a perception around the industry that Showalter might bristle at the front-office influence permeating nearly every dugout these days.

It would be a risk for many reasons. But if the Mets are looking for splash value, Showalter is clearly the guy.

Carlos Beltrán
Resume: Mets manager (2019-20, but did not manage a game); Yankees executive (2018-19); 20-year playing career

This one is admittedly unlikely, but some within the Mets organization regret Beltrán’s dismissal early in 2020 because they believe he would have made a solid manager. As Alex Cora has proven in Boston, it’s possible to walk away mostly unscathed from the sign-stealing episode that rocked both men. Beneath that stain remains one of this generation’s best baseball minds, and one with an outsized influence on many current players — particularly fellow Puerto Rican Francisco Lindor, the Mets’ shortstop. Beltrán can connect with modern players in a way that someone like Showalter or even Ausmus cannot. But it would be a difficult hire from a public relations standpoint given his relatively recent dismissal.

For as long as Mike Shildt is available, he’ll likely be linked with any managerial job opening. Shildt is well respected around the game, though managing in St. Louis is admittedly different from managing in New York. … Raúl Ibañez has built a successful career in the league office, but many consider him a future manager. … Former White Sox skipper Rick Rentería has made it known that he’d like to manage again, though that doesn’t mean the Mets will be interested. … Eduardo Pérez was a finalist the last time the Mets had an opening, albeit under a different front office. His communication skills are unparalleled. … Fan favorite Joe McEwing has interviewed for the Mets job in the past. He’s another well-respected baseball man; will he ever get his chance at a top dugout job?

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