Reports: Kevin Reese, Tim Naehring, Jay Darnell among candidates to replace Billy Eppler

Generic photo is generic. (Presswire)
Generic photo is generic. (Presswire)

Soon after the Yankees were eliminated from the postseason last week, assistant GM Billy Eppler headed back home to Southern California to take over as Angels GM, leaving a void in the front office. Eppler has been Cashman’s right hand man for a few years now. For a while it appeared he was being groomed to one take over as GM.

After Eppler took the job from the Angels, Cashman said he prefers to replace him from within, though an outside hire is always possible. “I will look outside, too. But you always want to promote from within if you can. I believe in our system and depth of our personnel,” he said to Joel Sherman.

According to George King and Nick Cafardo, among the internal candidates to replace Eppler are player personnel head Kevin Reese (the former outfielder!) and trusted scouts Tim Naehring and Jay Darnell. Naehring reportedly had a big hand in acquiring Didi Gregorius while Darnell was the scout who recommended Yangervis Solarte.

Cafardo says Naehring has turned down promotions in the past because he is based in Cincinnati and wants to remain close to his family. There was some talk Naehring and Darnell would join Eppler in Anaheim, but Cashman shot that down. “That’s not true. They’re under contract,” the GM said.

The Yankees still have two assistant GMs even with Eppler gone: Jean Afterman and Michael Fishman. Afterman is the contract and legal guru from what I understand. Fishman heads the team’s statistical analysis department. Jon Heyman says special advisor Jim Hendry now has a “big voice in the organization,” though apparently he isn’t a candidate to take over as assistant GM.

I don’t know anything about Reese, Naehring, and Darnell as far as their front office skills, but they’re reportedly candidates to replace Eppler, so they must be highly regarded within the organization. I have to think replacing Eppler is something the Yankees want to do soon, before the offseason really gets underway.

Manager Dave Miley will not return to Triple-A Scranton in 2016

(Times Leader)
(Times Leader)

Longtime manager Dave Miley will not return to Triple-A Scranton next season, according to multiple reports. “Dave was great for the Yankees and did a lot of great stuff,” said Brian Cashman to George King. “Obviously, Gary (Denbo) is running (the farm system now) and is trying to put people in places. With new people changes occur with new regimes.”

Miley, 53, has managed New York’s top minor league club since 2006, when they were still affiliated with the Columbus Clippers. He remained with the organization when the Yankees left Columbus for Scranton in 2007. Miley played in the minors from 1980-87 without reaching MLB. He coached in the Reds’ farm system from 1988-2002 before serving as their big league manager from 2003-05.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise has been around since 1989 and Miley is the all-time leader in wins (714). He led them to their only International League championship in 2008 as well as five division titles (2007-10, 2015). Miley was in charge when Triple-A Scranton spent the entire 2012 season on the road due to extensive renovations at PNC Field, and he’s managed every one of the Yankees’ recent top prospects, including Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Jesus Montero, and Luis Severino. It’s a long list.

It’s unclear who will replace Miley and it’s too early for that anyway. Minor league coaching staffs usually aren’t announced until December or January. Denbo replaced Mark Newman last year and rearranged the coaching staffs extensively. Some coaches were moved around — longtime Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin was moved to the new Rookie Pulaski affiliate, for example — and some were replaced with outside hires. Miley was one of the very few who remained in place.

Cashman on Girardi’s status for 2016: “Nobody should be looking for anybody different”

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Any time a Yankees season ends without a World Series title, the coaching staff and management will have their job security called into question. It happens every year. The Yankees didn’t win so changes need to be made, and it’s easier to get rid of coaches than players. That’s the general line of thinking.

Don’t expect to see a new manager in 2016, however. Brian Cashman all but confirmed Joe Girardi, who just completed his eighth (!) season as manager, will return next season. Here’s what he told George King:

“It’s a fact, nobody should be looking for anybody different,” general manager Brian Cashman said when asked if Girardi, who has two years and $8 million remaining on his contract, was in trouble. “He is signed for two more years and managed the team to the playoffs. It’s not his fault we didn’t hit. He managed a perfect playoff game.”

September was not Girardi’s best month as manager, but almost every move he made backfired, even the ones that made perfect sense. The decision to bench Jacoby Ellsbury in favor of Brett Gardner in the wildcard game will be second guessed until the end of the time — or at least until people have something new to complain about — but it was the right move.

Personally, I think Girardi is an average-ish manager in terms of on-field moves. He assigns his relievers specific innings and he weighs platoon matchups heavily, which makes him like most other guys out there. Girardi seems to go his best work in the clubhouse. The Yankees are largely distraction free — even something as serious as CC Sabathia checking in to rehab more or less blew over — and they play hard for him. You can’t quantify it, but there is absolutely value in that.

As for the coaching staff, Cashman stopped short of saying everyone will be back next season, though he says that pretty much every year. Here’s what he told King:

“I will go through that with our ownership and Joe. Since you live through it for six months you have a pretty good feel about everything,” Cashman said when asked about the coaches’ status. “Now is the time to have these conversations. You live and you know it and you have a feel for what you might want to do with it as you move forward. Those conversations take place with your manager, take place with your coaches and take place with ownership.”

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has one year left on his contract and bullpen coach Gary Tuck can pick up an option in his contract for next season. Bench coach Rob Thomson, first base coach Tony Pena, hitting coach Jeff Pentland, and assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell all have contracts that expire this month. I’m not sure what third base coach Joe Espada‘s contraction situation is.

The Yankees did not hit at all from mid-August through the end of the regular season, though they jumped from 20th in runs last year to second this year. Firing the hitting coaches after that would be weird but it’s not impossible. Marcus Thames served as Triple-A Scranton’s hitting coach last year and it seems like he is being groomed for the big league job. Pentland and Cockrell took over after Kevin Long was fired last season.

Pena has been with the Yankees since 2005 and Thomson has been with the organization since 1990. He’s worn many different hats over the years — minor league coach, director of player development, big league coach, the works. Perhaps the Yankees are considering bumping Thomson back up into the front office now that assistant GM Billy Eppler is leaving for the Angels.

The one coaching staff change that wouldn’t surprise me is Espada at third base. The Yankees had 14 runners thrown out at home this season, which is actually the fifth fewest in MLB, but there were some really egregious ones in there, sometimes due to apparent communication issues. Remember the incident with Mark Teixeira in Texas? That was pretty bad. Espada worked in the front office the last few years and maybe he’s the one moving back with Eppler leaving. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’m not at all surprised Girardi’s job is safe and I don’t think it should be in danger anyway. The offense disappeared, none of the Triple-A relievers impressed, no starting pitcher threw 170+ innings, and the problem was Girardi? Please. Maybe the coaching staff will be shuffled around a little bit, but I would be surprised if there were any major changes in the dugout this offseason.

Angels name Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler new GM

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)
(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

According to Bill Shaikin, the Angels are expected to name Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler their new GM on Monday. The team has since announced the hire. Eppler was said to be the front-runner for several weeks now. He interviewed for the job back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto. Joel Sherman says Eppler will remain with the Yankees through the postseason.

“I cannot adequately express how excited I am for the opportunity Arte Moreno and the Angels have given me,” said Eppler in a statement. “The Angels are committed to Championship Standards. They are committed to being a perennial contender, and many of the pieces are already in place for that to occur. I look forward to a collaborative effort as we look to enhance and advance every phase of the baseball operations department. This is an organization with a tremendous amount of talent on and off the field, and I am excited to begin the next chapter of Angels Baseball.”

Eppler, 40, has been with the Yankees since 2005. He started as a scout and gradually worked his way up the ladder to assistant GM. While serving as head of the pro scouting department, Eppler and his staff were able to unearth cheap gems like Bartolo Colon, Luis Ayala, and Eric Chavez, among others.

Prior to joining the Yankees, Eppler pitched at UConn before an arm injury ended his playing career. He previously worked as a scout with the Rockies before hooking on with New York. Eppler is from Southern California, so joining the Angels is something of a homecoming for him.

Dipoto resigned as Angels GM back in July after a long power struggle with manager Mike Scioscia. Owner Arte Moreno sided with Scioscia, so Dipoto stepped down, which is kinda crazy. There are only 30 GM jobs, after all. They’re hard to get. The Mariners named Dipoto their new GM a few days ago. Eppler was in the running for that job too.

It’s unclear how or if the Yankees will replace Eppler in the front office. The Yankees still have assistant GMs Jean Afterman and Michael Fishman working under Brian Cashman, as well as a slew of advisors, most notably Gene Michael and Jim Hendry. There are countless others working behind the scenes as well.

It was only a matter of time until Eppler was poached by another club — he’s interviewed for several GM jobs over the years, including the Padres last year — and at one point I thought he was Cashman’s heir apparent. That didn’t happen. Eppler was said to be Cashman’s right hand man, so it’s a big loss for the front office.

Mariners name Jerry Dipoto new GM, Billy Eppler remains favorite for Angels GM job

Eppler and the ghost of A.J. Burnett. (NY Times)
Eppler and the ghost of A.J. Burnett. (NY Times)

Exactly one month after firing ex-GM Jack Zduriencik, the Mariners named former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto their new GM, the team announced yesterday. “Jerry impressed us at each step of the process … I am looking forward to having Jerry lead our baseball operations for a long time,” said president Kevin Mather in a statement.

Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler interviewed for the Mariners GM job not once, but twice, reports Joel Sherman. Jerry Crasnick says Eppler and Dipoto were the two finalists for the job. That’s not the first time that’s happened either — Eppler and Dipoto were the two finalists for the Angels GM position a few years ago, and Dipoto got that gig as well.

The Mariners GM job is off the board, though Eppler still remains the front-runner for the Angels GM job, reports Alden Gonzalez and Jeff Fletcher. He interviewed a few weeks ago and all signs point to Eppler getting the job at some point. Why hasn’t it happened yet? Fletcher explains:

It is likely the Angels and Yankees would both want to avoid even the appearance of a conflict if Eppler were named Angels GM before the teams met in the playoffs.

The Yankees currently have a comfortable lead on the first wildcard spot (3.5 games with six to play) while the Angels are only a half-game back of the Astros for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees and Angels could easily end up meeting in the wildcard game next week. One team poaching the other’s assistant GM right before a postseason matchup wouldn’t be a good look.

Eppler, 39, has been with the Yankees since 2005, starting as a scout before working his way up the ladder to assistant GM. He worked with the Rockies before joining the Yankees. In addition to interviewing for the Mariners and Angels GM jobs this year, Eppler also interviewed for the Padres GM job last year and declined an invitation to interview for the Diamondbacks GM job. He also interviewed with the Angels back in 2011.

While nothing is set in stone, it seems likely the Angels will name Eppler their new GM soon after the season. I have no idea how or if the Yankees would replace him in the front office. They tend to promote from within and I assume that would happen again.

The Yankees and 2015’s major awards


We’re now into the final week of the regular season, meaning candidates for baseball’s major annual awards only have a handful of games remaining to state their cases. Outside of NL MVP, which should go to Bryce Harper unanimously, the other major awards in both leagues feature some very tight races. It’ll be fun to see them shake out.

The last Yankees player to win a major award was Mariano Rivera, who took home 2013 AL Comeback Player of the Year honors after tearing his ACL on the Kauffman Stadium warning track in 2012. Prior to that you have to go back to Alex Rodriguez‘s 2007 MVP season. There is something of a Yankee bias in the awards voting — a Yankee usually needs to have a season far superior to everyone else to receive votes, a la A-Rod in 2007. If it’s close, the votes tend to go to the non-Yankee.

Anyway, as a reminder, the awards are all voted on following the end of the regular season but before the postseason. The playoffs have zero bearing on the major awards. They cover the regular season only. So, with that in mind, let’s preview the awards races and see where some Yankees may fit into the picture, if any.

Most Valuable Player

Right now the MVP race is between Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout, with Donaldson seemingly in the lead. Trout, however, has equal or better offensive numbers (other than RBI, basically) and doesn’t play in a hitter-friendly home park. Also, the Angels are right in the thick of the AL wildcard race. If they sneak in, will that push some voters towards Trout? The ballot literally says standings do not matter, but we all know they do. Voters consider that stuff all the time. Donaldson is the favorite but Trout could make it very interesting with a big final week to push the Halos into the postseason.


For much of the season Mark Teixeira was a legitimate MVP candidate based on old school stats. He was mashing taters and driving in runs (and playing great defense) for a first place team, which usually equals MVP candidate. Teixeira’s injury — he only played 111 games this year — and the Yankees’ tumble into a wildcard spot ended his long shot chances for the MVP award. Teixeira was awesome, but I thought it was a stretch to lump him into a group with Donaldson, Trout, Nelson Cruz, Manny Machado … guys like that.

The Yankees only have three other players remotely close to being considered MVP candidates, in my opinion: A-Rod, Brian McCann, and Dellin Betances. A-Rod has had a big year offensively but is still a DH, and DHs need huge years to win MVP. Not even peak Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz won an MVP, remember. McCann has been arguably the best offensive catcher in the league and a reliable defender. Betances? Even with his recent walk problems, he’s been the most dominant reliever in the game this summer.

The MVP ballot includes ten spots and those last two or three spots always seem to get weird. Teixeira, A-Rod, McCann, and Betances could all get down-ballot votes. Heck, maybe Carlos Beltran and Andrew Miller will as well. Even Raul Ibanez got a tenth place vote on the 2012 MVP ballot after all those clutch late-season homers. (No, really.) I think a Yankee or three will get MVP votes in 2015. But they don’t have a serious candidate to win the thing.

Cy Young

The Yankees do not have a legitmate Cy Young candidate. They probably won’t even have a starter reach 170 innings — CC Sabathia leads the team with 162.1 innings with one start to go — which has never happened in a non-strike season in franchise history. Ever. Masahiro Tanaka has been the team’s best starter and he’s only thrown 149 innings with one start remaining. Betances and Miller could get votes — Dellin actually went into last night’s game eighth in the AL in bWAR — but they won’t win and shouldn’t win. Too many deserving starting pitcher candidates.

At this point I’d say the AL Cy Young is a toss-up between Dallas Keuchel and David Price. The traditional stats are damn near identical — Keuchel is 19-8 with a 2.47 ERA, Price is 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA — and Keuchel has an edge in bWAR (7.3 vs. 6.0) while Price has an edge in fWAR (6.4 vs. 6.1). So pick one. I don’t think there’s a wrong answer. Sonny Gray, Chris Archer, and Chris Sale are among the other candidates. The Cy Young ballot includes five slots, not ten, and I suppose Dellin could steal a fifth place vote or two. He’s pretty much their only hope for 2015 Cy Young votes.


Rookie of the Year

The Yankees have used more rookies this season than at any point in the last 10-15 years or so — at a quick glance, I count 23 Yankees rookies, 16 of whom made their MLB debuts in 2015 — but they don’t have a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. None of them have been around long enough. Chasen Shreve is the only rookie who has been on the roster more than even half the season, and he’s a middle reliever. Middle relievers don’t get Rookie of the Year votes.

Luis Severino is New York’s best chance at Rookie of the Year votes and I don’t see it happening at all. That’s not meant as a knock on Severino’s performance. He’s been great, but ten starts and 55.1 innings just isn’t enough to get love on a Rookie of the Year ballot that runs only three slots deep. Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa will occupy the top two spots in whatever order, then the list of candidates for the third spot include Lance McCullers Jr., Roberto Osuna, Miguel Sano, Delino DeShields Jr., Devon Travis, and Billy Burns.

None of the baby Yankees have been around long enough to garner serious Rookie of the Year consideration this year. Maybe Severino steals a third place vote. Maaaybe. That’s about it.

Manager of the Year

At some point in the last decade or so the Manager of the Year morphed into the “manager of the team that most exceeds expectations” award. Are the Yankees exceeding expectations this year? I think so, but more than, say, the Rangers (Jeff Banister) or Astros (A.J. Hinch) or Twins (Paul Molitor) or even the Blue Jays (John Gibbons)? That’s up to the voters to decide.

The Manager of the Year ballot runs three names deep and last year seven of the 15 AL managers received a vote (Girardi got one third place vote). The year before that? Nine of 15 managers got a vote. Girardi has received at least one Manager of the Year vote every year with the Yankees except 2008, his first season. The smart money is on Girardi appearing on at least one voter’s ballot. Winning it over Banister or Hinch or whoever? That’s tough to see.


Comeback Player of the Year

Okay, now we’re talking. A-Rod is a bonafide Comeback Player of the Year candidate along with Prince Fielder, Ryan Madson, and Kendrys Morales. (Jose Iglesias and Chris Davis are probably in the mix as well.) The Comeback Player of the Year used to be decided by fan voting, but it’s now up to a panel of beat reporters. I’m not sure how that whole process works.

Rodriguez didn’t play last season because of his suspension and there is precedent for a player being named Comeback Player of the Year following a performance-enhancing drug issues — Jason Giambi was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2005, a few months after getting caught up in the BALCO scandal. That doesn’t necessarily mean the voters won’t hold the PED stuff against A-Rod, but if they don’t, it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.

Anyway, Madson is a non-closer reliever, which works against him. Usually closers are the only relievers to win major awards. That’s not to say Madson isn’t deserving — the guy missed three years after Tommy John surgery, after all — just that the history of the voting body works against him. On the other hand, A-Rod (130 wRC+), Fielder (126 wRC+), and Morales (130 wRC+) all have comparable offensive numbers and they’re all DHs too. (Fielder has played only 18 games at first base this year.) Comparing them is nice and easy. Apples to apples.

The Comeback Player of the Year will come down to a matter of nitpicking. Fielder’s batting average (.306) or Morales’ RBI total (105) or A-Rod’s homers (32)? You can slice this in any number of ways. I don’t know if A-Rod will win the Comeback Player of the Year this year, but he’s a legitimate candidate and the Yankees’ best shot at winning a major award this season.

Update: Eppler interviews for Angels and Mariners GM positions

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

September 17th: Eppler met with Mariners brass in Chicago last night, reports George King. Seattle supposedly prefers a GM with experience, though they have a long list of candidates and are covering all their bases.

September 15th: Eppler was scheduled to meet with Angels owner Arte Moreno and team president John Carpino in New York last night, reports George King. Eppler interviewed with the Angels a few years ago, so it seems like the two sides were getting reacquainted more than anything. He is supposedly very high on their wish list.

September 9th: According to Ken Rosenthal, assistant GM Billy Eppler will interview with both the Angels and Mariners for their GM openings. The Yankees granted both teams permission to speak to Eppler, which isn’t surprising. Clubs usually won’t block a chance at an upward move.

Eppler, 39, interviewed with the Angels back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner up to Jerry Dipoto. Dipoto resigned earlier this year after losing a power struggle with manager Mike Scioscia. A few days ago we heard Eppler was considered the front-runner for the Halos GM gig. He’s a Southern California native and could jump at the chance to return home.

The Mariners fired GM Jack Zduriencik a few weeks ago and are in the process of picking a replacement. The Seattle job seems like a pretty good one — great city, great ballpark, and something of a clean slate. The new GM will presumably be able to bring his own people. Scouts, assistants, coaches, etc. With the Angels, the new GM will be stuck with Scioscia. Owner Arte Moreno made that clear when he picked Scioscia over Dipoto earlier this summer.

Eppler has been with the Yankees since 2005. He started as a scout and worked his way up the ladder, getting promoted to assistant GM back in 2012. Eppler has interviewed for several GM openings over the years, including with his hometown Padres this past offseason, and eventually he’ll snag one. I thought he would one day take over for Brian Cashman, but that seems more and more unlikely.