Breaking down candidates for Mets manager
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:
Resume: Dodgers bench coach (2016-present); Mets bench coach (2011-15); A's manager (2007-11); A's bullpen and bench coach (2003-06)
Of all the known Mets candidates, Geren features the strongest connection to team president Sandy Alderson, whose protégé, Billy Beane, hired Geren as a Minor League manager in 1999. Twelve years later, Alderson brought on Geren to be Terry Collins’ bench coach on the Mets’ coaching staff, where he remained for five seasons. Since that time, Geren has served as Dave Roberts’ right-hand man in Los Angeles, overseeing six consecutive playoff appearances, three pennants and a World Series title.
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 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.
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?
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.
Resume: Rays Minor League manager/coach (2004-13); Indians assistant hitting coach (2014-17); Rays third-base coach (2018); Rays bench coach (2019-present)
Quatraro, 48, has been a candidate in numerous managerial searches in recent years, including the Giants job that went to Gabe Kapler and the Pirates gig that went to Derek Shelton. He’s an obvious candidate for any opening, given both his youth and his experience guiding successful teams, so it was no surprise that the Mets requested formal permission in interview him in early December, according to an ESPN report. Since Quatraro joined the Rays’ coaching staff prior to the 2018 season, Tampa Bay has posted a .597 winning percentage -- good for fourth in the Majors over that stretch.
Before joining the Rays, Quatraro spent four seasons as the Indians’ assistant hitting coach, including during their World Series run in 2016. Although Quatraro has never managed in the Majors, he did so for several years in the Rays’ Minor League ranks before leaving to join Cleveland’s staff. Mets owner Steve Cohen has previously stated that he does not like for employees to “learn on my dime,” but perhaps the team would make an exception for someone with Quatraro’s resume.
Resume: Pirates bench coach (2020-present); Astros first-base coach (2019); Tigers scout (2017-18); nine-year playing career
If the Mets want youth, Kelly could have been an option, but he took himself out of consideration early in the process, according to a source. The 41-year-old was an active player as recently as 2016 before joining Detroit’s scouting department. He quickly moved from there to the coaching ranks, developing a strong enough reputation for the Mets to place him on their initial managerial list. Kelly’s lack of managerial experience would have made him a difficult hire, but he’s well-liked around the league and well-regarded as a future manager.
Resume: Dodgers first-base coach (2021-present); Dodgers farm director (2015-20); Blue Jays Minor League coach/manager (2006-14)
A managerial candidate at age 41, McCullough offers youth and recent success but also a lack of experience. Although he has spent just one year on a big league staff, he did so for the National League runner-up Dodgers under Roberts. He also oversaw a farm system that produced such All-Stars as Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler, among many others, and he has seven years of experience as a Minor League manager. It remains to be seen how willing the Mets will be to look past his light resume at the Major League level.
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.
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?