Who could Mets, Stearns turn to for manager role?

October 2nd, 2023

NEW YORK -- For all he’s accomplished as a young executive, David Stearns has never hired a Major League manager. That’s about to change, as the Mets announced Sunday that Buck Showalter will not return to the dugout.

Because Stearns is new to this process, it’s difficult to project how he might think or act. Still, plenty of names exist around the game as potential Mets managerial candidates. Here’s a look at some of the most obvious:

Stearns connections
There’s a reason why Stearns is new to this process: Craig Counsell, who came to the Brewers before Stearns did, performed well enough that his boss never had to replace him. That makes Counsell the most obvious candidate, and the proverbial elephant in the room until it either comes to fruition or is quashed.

While there would be obvious appeal for Stearns in working with Counsell again, no public indications exist that the longtime Wisconsin resident would be interested in following him to New York. All that’s clear is that Counsell’s contract is up after this season, the Brewers reportedly talked to him about an extension, and it never got done. Read into that as necessary.

If Counsell doesn’t join the Mets, how about one of his sidekicks? Pat Murphy has been the bench coach in Milwaukee since the moment Counsell arrived. He holds Minor League managerial experience as well as interim experience at the MLB level. But at 64, would Murphy represent enough of a departure from the similarly aged Showalter?

Those already in the organization
The Mets have already hired Carlos Beltrán as manager once, but he never spent a day in the dugout due to fallout from the sign-stealing scandal that implicated him in Houston. Some around the organization were -- and still are -- skeptical of Beltrán given his complete lack of managerial experience, but he does remain close with Eppler, who hired him last year as a front office special assistant. As long as Beltrán remains in the organization, he can’t be dismissed as a potential factor.

Current bench coach Eric Chavez has likewise expressed a desire to manage in the Majors. His bump from hitting coach to bench coach last season was not necessarily a promotion; the Mets did it because they saw the move as the only way to prevent assistant hitting coach Jeremy Barnes from bolting. Even so, it gave Chavez a full year of tutelage under Showalter. The downside? Like Beltrán, Chavez has never managed at any level.

Those whom the Mets have interviewed in the past
When the Mets hired Showalter two years ago, they also gave multiple interviews to Matt Quatraro and Joe Espada. Quatraro is now the manager in Kansas City and off-limits to the Mets. But Espada remains the bench coach in Houston despite multiple interviews for managerial vacancies elsewhere. He’s available, yes. Would the Mets feel strongly enough about Espada to hire someone who has been widely passed over elsewhere?

One intriguing name here is Bob Melvin, who interviewed for Mets manager back in 2010 but reportedly passed on an opportunity to do so again in 2021. Melvin’s future in San Diego is unclear following a season that was as disappointing as the one the Mets just endured. If the Padres cut him loose, and he’s willing to leave the West Coast, Melvin could again become a candidate in New York.

Before hiring Mickey Callaway in 2017, the Mets interviewed their own hitting coach, Kevin Long, who has seen continued success in Washington and Philadelphia. His coaching experience has mostly been limited to the batting cage, but he’s previously expressed an interest in managing.

Finally, there’s longtime fan favorite Joe McEwing, whose name always comes up on lists like these. McEwing has been a Major League coach for years, currently with the Cardinals. He has never been an MLB manager; if it were to happen, McEwing certainly would have former teammate and mentee David Wright’s stamp of approval. (And no, Wright is positively, absolutely not a candidate himself. He has no desire to do it.)

Free agents
The big name here is Gabe Kapler, who won 107 games with the Giants in 2021 and was -- at the time -- widely considered one of the game’s rising young managerial stars. Things haven’t gone as well for Kapler lately, resulting in his dismissal earlier this weekend.

Given his age, 48, and history of success, Kapler figures to receive another chance at some point. He has experience navigating large media markets in both Philadelphia and San Francisco. It seems likely that the Mets would at least check into someone with Kapler’s pedigree.

Also of intrigue is Don Mattingly, who joined the Blue Jays as bench coach last offseason following long stints managing the Dodgers and Marlins. Mattingly checks many boxes, including big-market managerial experience and familiarity with New York. But it’s unclear what sort of interest might exist from either party.