Eppler on Showalter: 'He’s the guy to get us back on track'

Mets GM expresses support for coaching staff while addressing potential Deadline plans

June 28th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Tuesday afternoon began with a Twitter announcement from owner Steve Cohen, who surprised some team staffers in revealing plans to hold a press conference the following day to, in his words, “get it from me straight.” The “it” promised to be a series of truths: How does Cohen feel about the most expensive roster in Major League history holding a 35-43 record as the end of June approaches? What might he do to change things?

Without further explanation, it became easy for minds to wander. Might general manager Billy Eppler’s job be in question? Could manager Buck Showalter be the first to go?

About two hours later, before his team played one of its most complete games of the season in a 7-2 win over the Brewers at Citi Field, Eppler emerged from a period of relative quiet to set -- from his perspective, anyway -- the record straight. Eppler threw his support behind Showalter and the team’s coaching staff, indicating that sweeping changes are not coming despite the club’s fourth-place standing.

“I think he’s the guy to get us back on track,” Eppler said of Showalter.

“They deserve an opportunity to keep this going, and all the support we can give them,” he said of the coaches.

Cohen will have his turn to speak Wednesday. As a preview, Eppler cracked open windows into the team’s thought process on various issues.

Jobs are secure
The most pressing questions surrounded the statuses of Eppler, Showalter, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and hitting coach Jeremy Barnes, all of whom have come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks. All are safe.

“They care. They’re thoughtful. They’re collaborative. And they want to help,” Eppler said.

Regarding Showalter, Eppler cited early injuries to Edwin Díaz, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in explaining the “amount of adversity heaped his way.” The GM praised Showalter for handling those challenges well, and said he is satisfied with Showalter’s explanation of recent sloppy play on the field -- errors, baserunning mistakes and the like.

“I believe in the way he’s framed it,” Eppler said.

Regarding his own role, Eppler noted he is in daily communication with Cohen, answering the owner’s questions about how to fix certain problems. Cohen’s satisfaction with those answers is something he can address on Wednesday. In the interim, Eppler seemed happy to shoulder his portion of the blame.

“I constructed the roster,” Eppler said. “Ultimately, this is the club we have right now. I think we expect them to be able to do more, and I think they expect it of themselves.”

Deadline plans remain fluid
Despite his trade of Eduardo Escobar to the Angels on Friday, Eppler said rival GMs have not been inquiring about other veterans on his roster. For the Mets, a more extensive sell-off before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline is unlikely. If it happens at all, it won’t begin for several weeks.

That runway offers Eppler time to continue evaluating his team. Every game, he said, is another data point.

As if to prove it later Tuesday, the Mets looked clinical in dismantling the Brewers behind four home runs (including two by ), six scoreless innings from spot starter and a defensive effort highlighted by a slick jump-throw.

“This win doesn’t guarantee us a playoff spot,” Lindor said. “We’re far from it. We’ve just got to stay on the positive side.”

It was nonetheless the type of game the Mets have been trying to play for much of the season -- the type that, if replicated with any sort of frequency over the next five weeks, could transform the tenor of Eppler’s trade talks.

“We’ve got a decent amount of runway here before the Deadline, and so I would hope that we can change the story,” Eppler said. “If we can, then we can add. If it doesn’t, then we’ll just have to create other opportunities and see what else exists out there.”

So what now?
The Mets won’t be firing people. They won’t be making roster-altering trades just yet. What does that leave in terms of avenues to change their fortune?

In Eppler’s estimation, it mostly revolves around figuring out how to improve the pitching staff, which entered Tuesday’s play ranked 25th in the Majors in ERA (4.62).

Take Peterson, for example. Although the left-hander held a 6.00 ERA over his five most recent starts with Triple-A Syracuse, the Mets tapped him for Tuesday’s start because of improvements he’s made in his strike rate, walk rate, command and pitch shapes. On the surface, the decision seemed odd -- even more so when Peterson loaded the bases with one out in the first inning.

But Peterson induced a double-play ball to escape that jam, then went on to deliver one of the better starts of his career. If Mets coaches can repeat that sort of improvement with other players, Eppler believes enough talent exists for the team to run up the standings.

“That’s where you’re going to lean back on the performance of the players in the past and their own track record,” the GM said. “One of the benefits of having an experienced team is they’ve been through things before, and they’ve been through adversities … to kind of fight their way out of it.”