Steve Cohen conducted a press conference this afternoon, as promised. The Mets’ owner addressed the struggling franchise, which goes into play tonight carrying a 36-43 record that has them 8 1/2 back of the National League’s final playoff spot.
Cohen predictably expressed frustration with the team’s performance. However, he stressed he had no plans to remove general manager Billy Eppler or skipper Buck Showalter midseason (link via Andy McCullough of the Athletic).
“If you want to attract good people to this organization, the worst thing you can do is be impulsive, and win the headline for the day. You’re not going to attract the best talent. You’re not going to want to work with somebody who has a short fuse,” Cohen told reporters. “I know fans want something to happen. I get it. But sometimes you can’t do it, because you have long-term objectives.”
While there’s no sweeping leadership change in the near future, Cohen hinted at a noteworthy front office move further down the line. He indicated the club planned to hire a president of baseball operations at some point, though he declined to put a timetable on that process. The Mets have been without a team president since Sandy Alderson moved to an advisory capacity last offseason.
Initial expectations were that Alderson’s replacement would be focused on the business side while Eppler retained baseball operations autonomy. Cohen’s comments this afternoon suggest he’s likely to bring in a new baseball operations leader, pushing Eppler into the #2 role in the front office. Andy Martino of SNY writes that the Mets still also intend to hire a business-oriented team president. The president of baseball ops/GM hierarchy is relatively common around the game, though it’s rarer for a club to hire a president to take over the front office while retaining the same GM who previously led baseball operations. Martino suggests Eppler would be involved in the hiring process for the baseball operations president.
“My view is this is a very complex job and there’s a lot to do, and it’s a lot on one person,” Cohen said of the front office structure (relayed by Anthony DiComo of MLB.com). “That’s still out there. We’ll see. At some point, we will fill that position.” How that might affect Eppler’s future with the organization is undetermined. No new hire seems imminent, so the second-year GM will continue running the front office for the near future at least.
If that hiring process runs into next offseason, it’s sure to invite plenty of speculation about David Stearns’ future. The Mets reportedly showed interest in Stearns over the 2021-22 offseason prior to hiring Eppler. He was still serving as Brewers’ president of baseball operations at that time, though, and Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio declined to grant the Mets permission for an interview.
Stearns remained Milwaukee’s front office leader through the end of last season. At that point, he stepped into an advisory role and ceded day-to-day autonomy to GM Matt Arnold. At the time, the 38-year-old spoke of a desire to “to (take) a deep breath, (spend) time with my family and (explore) some other interests” with fewer baseball operations responsibilities. He remains under contract with Milwaukee through the end of the 2023 season, so other teams would have to wait until the upcoming offseason to gauge his interest in new opportunities.
Whether the Manhattan native has any interest in jumping back to the top of a front office isn’t clear. For now, ties between the Mets and Stearns are simply speculative. Abbey Mastracco of the New York Daily News wrote again last week that some within the industry expect the Mets to renew their pursuit of Stearns next winter.
While the front office structure will be a pivotal decision for Cohen in the long term, the more immediate focus is on navigating the trade deadline. With a little over a month before August 1, he declined to commit to the club’s direction. However, Cohen did imply the team would have to cut into their deficit over the next four weeks for the front office to consider short-term help.
“If I’m in this position, I’m not adding,” Cohen said (via McCullough). “I think that would be pretty silly.” He didn’t sound anxious to tear the roster down, either, saying the team “would probably do very little” if they’re out of contention. David Robertson, Tommy Pham and Carlos Carrasco are the club’s notable impending free agents. Max Scherzer, Omar Narváez and Adam Ottavino all have opt-out clauses at year’s end. The team has options on Mark Canha and Brooks Raley, while Pete Alonso is arbitration-eligible for one more season.