Archive for Billy Eppler

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

The Yankees fired hitting coach Kevin Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher late last week. Brian Cashman confirmed the rest of the staff will be retained — “If we choose to make any other changes we’ll let you know, otherwise everything is status quo until then,” he said — though there has been speculation bullpen coach Gary Tuck, third base coach Robbie Thomson, and bench coach Tony Pena could be moved into different roles. We’ll see. Here are a bunch of coaching and front office staff updates courtesy of Bob Klapisch, Erik Boland, Sweeny Murti, Chad Jennings, Susan Slusser, Bob Nightengale, Donnie Collins, Andrew Marchand, and George King.

  • Interesting comment from Cashman after the firings were announced (emphasis mine): “There are some individuals, I think, as we move forward (who) will bring more for the global perspective of the coaching staff  … There are some more things that I want to add to the staff with Joe Girardi. And in my dialogue with Joe, we look forward to interviewing some personnel that can bring those things to the table.” Hmmm.
  • Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters he is “assuming” he will return to the team next year after they were eliminated from the postseason last week, though nothing has been decided yet. If Mattingly does get canned, I have to think the Yankees will consider bringing him back as hitting coach, the role he held from 2004-06 before taking over as Joe Torre’s bench coach.
  • Tino Martinez is not a hitting coach candidate and Paul O’Neill gave a simple “no” when asked if he was interested in the job. Tino was the Marlins hitting coach in 2013 but resigned that July after word got out that he verbally abused players in the clubhouse and literally choked one player. So yeah, forget that.
  • Former Yankees DH and current Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis is “getting mentioned” as a hitting coach candidate. Davis has been Oakland’s hitting coach since the 2012 season and before that was a minor league coach with the Red Sox and Dodgers. There’s also speculation Dante Bichette could be a candidate for the job. He was the Rockies hitting coach in 2013 and is close with Girardi.
  • There’s also speculation current Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Harkey could return as bullpen coach — Harkey was the Yankees bullpen coach from 2008-13 — with Tuck taking over as bench coach and Pena taking over as first base coach. (Tuck was Girardi’s bench coach with the Marlins in 2006.) The D’Backs just hired new GM Dave Stewart and fired manager Kirk Gibson, so other coaching staff changes are expected.
  • Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Butch Wynegar was let go after the season and third base coach Luis Sojo won’t return to the team next year. That doesn’t mean Sojo’s leaving the organization, it just means won’t be with the RailRiders in 2015. Double-A Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames is well-regarded within the organization but is not a candidate for the MLB hitting coach job right now.
  • The Dodgers are reportedly mulling over the future of GM Ned Colletti, and Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is already getting consideration as a possible replacement. Eppler interviewed for the Padres GM job earlier this year.
  • Special assistant Trey Hillman may leave the Yankees to become new Astros manager A.J. Hinch’s bench coach. Hillman is considered a candidate to replace retiring VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman as head of the farm system. He’s also a candidate to join the MLB coaching staff in some capacity.

And finally, I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees will adopt the two-hitting coach system many teams use nowadays. (Seventeen teams employ two hitting coaches right now.) They were reportedly considering hiring an assistant hitting coach two years ago but never did, and that “globe perspective” talk from Cashman makes me think Hideki Matsui will be considered for the staff. He’s always working with the team’s minor leaguers at the various parks. Anyway, that’s just me thinking out loud. If the Yankees were going to add an assistant hitting coach, now is the perfect time.

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Via Ken Rosenthal: Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler will not interview for the vacant Diamondbacks GM position. Arizona confirmed he was on their list of candidates soon after firing GM Kevin Towers last week. Eppler interviewed for the Padres GM job earlier this summer and was reportedly the runner-up to the since-hired A.J. Preller. He was also the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM position a few years ago.

I think it’s only a coincidence we’re hearing Eppler will not interview for the D’Backs gig the day after reports surfaced that VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman is retiring and a “complete overhaul” of the player development staff may be coming. Based on the typical power structure throughout baseball, going from assistant GM to some sort of top player development position would be, at best, a lateral move for Eppler. His decision not to interview may simply have to do with the uncomfortable situation in Arizona, where Tony La Russa appears to be calling the shots and will be looking over the new GMs shoulder constantly.

Categories : Asides, Front Office
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Yesterday morning, the Diamondbacks officially fired GM Kevin Towers in the wake of their massively disappointing season. (Towers spent 2010 working as a special advisor with the Yankees, so I suppose there’s a chance he could return to the team in some capacity. He and Brian Cashman are very close.) During a conference call with Nick Piecoro, D’Backs exec Tony La Russa named Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler as someone on their list of GM candidates.

Eppler was reportedly a finalist for the Padres GM job earlier this summer, though San Diego eventually went in a different direction. He was also the runner up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM gig a few years ago. The Yankees gave Eppler permission to interview with the Padres and I have no reason to think they won’t allow him to speak with Arizona. He’s been with the Yankees since 2004 and was the director of pro scouting from 2005-11 before being promoted to assistant GM. It’s only a matter of time before Eppler becomes a GM, and with the Yankees likely to re-sign Cashman after the season, chances are that opportunity will come with another team.

Categories : Asides, Front Office
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According to both Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin, the Padres will name Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller their new general manager. An official announcement is expected later today. Preller beat out Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler for the job, as well as MLB executive Kim Ng and Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen.

Eppler, a San Diego native, was said to be the front-runner for the job just yesterday. If yesterday’s report is to be believed, this is the second time he will have finished second in the running for a GM job. He was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels’ gig a few years ago. Eppler has been with the Yankees since 2004 and was the director of pro scouting from 2005-11 before being promoted to assistant GM. As I’ve been saying, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a GM, either as Brian Cashman‘s successor or with some other team.

Categories : Asides, Front Office
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Via Jon Heyman: The Padres now appear to be focusing on Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler for their vacant GM position. Eppler is considered the front-runner with Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller, MLB executive Kim Ng, and Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen further back in the race. Heyman says the Padres could announce their new hire as soon as tomorrow.

Eppler, a San Diego native, was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels’ GM job a few years ago, so this isn’t the first time he’s been close to a GM job. He joined the Yankees in 2004 and was the director of pro scouting from 2005-11 before being promoted to assistant GM. It’s clear Eppler will be a GM at some point in relatively soon, either as Brian Cashman‘s eventual successor or with another team. If he gets the job in San Diego, I think it would all but guarantee Cashman will remain GM and get a new contract once his expires after the season.

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Via Scott Miller: Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is among four finalists for the Padres’ GM job. Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen, Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller, and MLB executive Kim Ng are the other finalists. The Padres passed on more experienced candidates and prefer to hire a young up and comer. A second round of interviews will be conducted in the coming week.

Eppler, a San Diego native, was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels’ GM job a few years ago, so this isn’t the first time he’s been among a round of finalists and called back for a second interview. He joined the Yankees in 2004 and was the director of pro scouting from 2005-11 before being promoted to assistant GM. It’s clear that Eppler will be a GM at some point in relatively soon, either as Brian Cashman‘s eventual successor or with another team.

Categories : Asides, Front Office
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Thursday: The Yankees will indeed give the Padres permission to speak with Eppler about their GM opening, reports Jon Heyman. Teams usually won’t block an front office member from interviewing for a promotion like this, so this isn’t a surprise.

Wednesday: Via Ken Rosenthal: The Padres have required permission to interview Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler for their now open GM position. Josh Byrnes was fired over the weekend and Eppler, a San Diego native who started his career as a scout with the Padres, is one of several candidates for the job. Buster Olney says he will receive “serious consideration.”

Eppler joined the Yankees in 2004 and was the director of pro scouting from 2005-11 before being promoted to assistant GM. The promotion appeared to put him in line to take over for Brian Cashman whenever the time came. The Padres did not interview Eppler for their last GM opening during the 2009-10 offseason, though he did interview for the Angels’ job three years ago and was reportedly the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto. It’s only a matter of time before Eppler becomes a GM, either as Cashman’s successor or for another team.

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Mar
31

CNN Money Q&A with Billy Eppler

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The Yankees promoted Billy Eppler to assistant GM this past offseason, a significant move in the sense that it created at least the appearances of a line of succession for GM Brian Cashman. Eppler chatted with Shelley DuBois of CNN Money about a variety of topics recently, including the scouting process and what he’s learned from Cashman.

“Brian Cashman has taught me so much about not reacting too soon,” said Eppler. “I’ve learned that time and patience are extremely powerful weapons when used right … I look to Brian and I almost marvel at how he balances when it’s the right time to make a change and when it’s the right time to let a player sort himself out.”

The interview is short but sweet, and it’s well worth your time. It gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so check it out.

Categories : Asides
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Feb
01

The Future of the Front Office

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Billy Eppler shuns your camera lens. (Barton Silverman/The New York Times)

It barely registered as more than a blip on the radar, but the Yankees made a rather significant move yesterday. The club added former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Pro scouting director Billy Eppler was promoted to assistant GM, a move with some pretty significant long-term implications. Rather than explain why all over again, I’ll point you to what I wrote last June

When I look at the Yankees front office, one thing really stands out to me: there’s no obvious, in-house candidate to replace [GM Brian Cashman]. I’m guessing that’s by design, because why would Cashman want competition from the inside? He’s made himself that much more valuable to the franchise by making sure no one emerges as a potential replacement. From a business perspective, it’s brilliant. Assistant GM Jean Afterman reportedly specializes in contracts and negotiations, not necessarily baseball operations. Scouting directors Billy Eppler (pro) and Damon Oppenheimer (amateur) don’t have any kind of GM’ing experience, even at the assistant level. The closest thing the Yankees have had to a potential in-house GM alternative during Cashman’s tenure (at least recently) was Kevin Towers, who served as a special advisor in 2010 before taking the Diamondbacks GM job over the winter.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because when you look around the league, this is something pretty unique to the Yankees. Just to use the Red Sox as an example (since apparently they’re the measuring stick for everything the Yankees do), their official site lists something like eight assistants (with various titles) to GM Theo Epstein, including one former GM in Allard Baird (Royals). If Epstein leaves for whatever reason, AGM Ben Cherington could step in and the team wouldn’t miss a beat. In fact, he and current Padres GM Jed Hoyer served as co-GMs when Epstein briefly left the club in December of 2005, and the duo actually brokered the Hanley Ramirez-Josh Beckett trade in Epstein’s short absence. I just don’t see how that kind of seamless transition would occur with the Yankees.

Eppler has run the pro scouting department since Cashman created it in 2005, and prior to that he worked as a scout for the Yankees, Padres, and Rockies. He pitched at UConn once upon a time, but a shoulder injury ended his playing career before he had a chance to go pro. Joe Torre (and Tom Verducci) referred to him as a “stats guru” in The Yankee Years, but Eppler says that’s not the case.

“Is Billy a stats guy? No, and I joke with him about it,” said Bill Schmidt — the Rockies’ VP of Scouting — to Tyler Kepner in 2009. “But does he use it as a tool? We all do. Billy is a well-rounded scout, and any well-rounded scout is going to look at stats.”

Eppler’s promotion to assistant GM appears to be step one of creating the seamless transition that I talked about in June. He’s been in the mix for both the Padres’ and Angels’ GM positions in recent years, and reportedly was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the job in Anaheim earlier this offseason. I’m sure other clubs have expressed interest in him in other capacities as well, we just don’t know about it. Cashman and former Yankees GM Gene Michael (currently an advisor to Cashman) have touted Eppler as a future GM in the past, and right now it’s clear that it’s only a matter of time before some team hires him for that role. Yesterday’s promotion is an indication that that team may end up being the Yankees.

Cashman is about to enter his 14th year as GM of the Yankees, and tenures of that length are pretty unheard of when it comes to baseball executives. He signed his fourth straight three-year contract back in November, so he’ll be around for a 15th and 16th season as well. What happens after that? We really don’t know. Cashman is still relatively young (45 in July), so he has plenty of GM years left ahead of him, at least in theory. The Steinbrenners love him and the team continues to win, so that side of it doesn’t figure to be an issue. Maybe another three-year contract is in the cards, but I get the sense that the next three years will be spent grooming Eppler to take over following the 2014 season.

Now, I don’t think Cashman will be fired or shown the door at that time, though it’s certainly possible, of course. It does come with the territory. I think it’s more likely that he’ll be promoted, however, perhaps to some kind of chairperson/team president capacity with Eppler stepping in as GM. It’s pretty much the same thing the Indians did a year or two ago, when long-time GM Mark Shapiro became team president and long-time assistant GM Chris Antonetti replaced him. That was the plan for years, and the Yankees could be setting themselves up for a similar kind of transition. Nice and easy, we’ll barely even notice.

I don’t have any kind of hard evidence to back this up obviously, it’s just a thought more than anything. Cashman’s been doing this GM thing for a long time now, and a promotion to a higher position is the natural order of things. Eppler is a valuable asset that other teams clearly have interest in, and that interest only figures to increase over the next few years. Rather than lose him to another club (which could still happen), they Yankees have put him in a position to potentially succeed Cashman and become the next GM. For the first time in Cashman’s tenure, there’s something resembling a line of succession in place.

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The Yankees have hired former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout, the team announced. Bruce Levine says he got a multi-year contract. Hendry ran the Cubs from 2002 through the middle of last summer before being fired, and he’s the second former GM the Yankees have hired in recent years. Former Padres GM and current Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers served as a special advisor to Brian Cashman in 2010.

Towers is known for his ability to evaluate pitchers, but I honestly don’t know much about Hendry. At least two people with more access than I (Kevin Goldstein & Mike Ferrin) have applauded the move, so there’s that. I do know that Hendry was fired in late-July this past season, but stayed on another month to help the team sign its draft picks. That speaks to his character, if nothing else. Hendry is well-respected within the game and has done it all during his career, spending time as a college coach (at Creighton), a minor league coach, farm director, scouting director, assistant GM, and of course GM. I’m all in favor of adding voices to the front office, so I approve.

The Yankees also announced a series of promotions. Long-time assistant trainer Steve Donohue has been promoted to head trainer, replacing the now-retired Gene Monahan. Minor league head trainer Mark Littlefield will now be his assistant. Assistant GM Jean Afterman was given the title of senior vice president as well. Bill Eppler was promoted to assistant GM, with his former assistant Will Kuntz taking over as pro scouting director. The Eppler promotion is significant; he was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM job earlier this winter, and for the first time in a long time, there is an obvious in-house successor to Cashman.

Categories : Asides, Front Office
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