Mets manager search ramping up (source)

December 9th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Brad Ausmus, Joe Espada, Bob Geren, Clayton McCullough, Matt Quatraro and Buck Showalter are all going through the interview process for the Mets' open managerial job, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation, with several of those set to advance to a second round of the process as soon as next week. The club did not confirm the news.

As of Thursday afternoon, team officials were in the process of closing out their first round of interviews, which were held virtually. The Mets have a chance to move quickly on a hire, given the fact that Major League Baseball's lockout prevents them from negotiating with free agents. As such, the managerial hiring is now atop their agenda, with second-round, in-person interviews set to begin soon.

A seventh candidate, Don Kelly, was on the interview list but has dropped out of the process, a source confirmed. The remaining six offer a mix of experience and youth.

Ausmus became an obvious candidate as soon as the Mets named Billy Eppler their new general manager. 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 Maddon became available. 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.

Espada has been a ubiquitous managerial candidate in recent years, interviewing 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. 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.

Geren boasts an Alderson connection spanning years; though the two did not overlap during their time in Oakland in the late 1990s, they had a strong mutual relationship with Alderson’s successor, Billy Beane. A year after the Mets hired Alderson to lead their baseball operations department in 2010, the team hired Geren as Terry Collins’ bench coach. He remained in that role through the Mets’ World Series run in '15 before departing to take the same job with the Dodgers. Geren has been in Los Angeles ever since.

McCullough has only one year of experience on a big league staff, serving as first-base coach for the National League runner-up Dodgers in 2021. Prior to that, he served as Los Angeles’ field coordinator and as a manager in Toronto’s Minor League system. At 41 years old, he is the youngest Mets managerial candidate.

Quatraro, 48, has been the Rays' bench coach for three seasons after prior stops in Cleveland and the Minor Leagues. He interviewed for the Giants job that went to Kapler and was a finalist for the Pirates job that went to Derek Shelton. He also reportedly spoke with the Tigers before they elected to hire manager A.J. Hinch.

Showalter is by far the most experienced of the known candidates, and he also boasts an Eppler connection; when the Angels were looking to replace Ausmus prior to the 2019 season, Eppler reportedly recommended Showalter to Moreno. Showalter is adept with the media and understands New York as well as anyone, having managed in the Bronx for four seasons. But concerns do 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. The old-school Showalter would also have to be willing to accept the front-office influence that permeates nearly every dugout in baseball.

The Mets have been searching for a manager since dismissing Luis Rojas in October, but they first chose to hire a GM and wade through the opening act of free agency before continuing their search in earnest.