Archive for Billy Eppler

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.

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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.

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Via George King (subs. req’d), the Yankees have re-signed pro scouting director Billy Eppler, amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, and VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman for 2012. Eppler and Oppenheimer were both candidates for the Angels GM job earlier this offseason, with Eppler finishing as the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto. Oppenheimer was also up for the Orioles GM job. It’s only a matter of time before the Yankees lose those two to other clubs, but they’ll remain in the Bronx for at least one more year.

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Via Buster Olney, the Orioles have asked the Yankees for permission to interview amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer for their still vacant GM job. Olney says they might also have interest in pro scouting director Billy Eppler, who was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM position.

Baltimore has already offered the job to two very qualified candidates (Dipoto and Blue Jays’ assistant GM Tony LaCava), but both have turned it down. These are highly-coveted gigs, there are only 30 GM jobs out there, and to have two people turn it down is pretty damning for the O’s. Danny Knobler reported yesterday that owner Peter Angelos would not let LaCava bring in his own front office people, which is just mind-numbingly stupid. Be glad you weren’t born an Orioles fan, folks.

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Via MLBTR, the Angels will name Diamondbacks’ exec Jerry Dipoto their new GM. That means the Yankees are likely to retain Billy Eppler, there pro scouting director, who was a candidate for the job and even called back for a second interview. Amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer was also up for the job, but he was told he was no longer considered a candidate after his first interview. Epp and Opp will get their shots at being GMs eventually, likely within a year or two, but I’m glad both are back. They do bang-up work.

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Via Jon Heyman and Mike DiGiovanna, Billy Eppler has been called by the Angels for a second interview about their GM job. Damon Oppenheimer was told that he is not longer being considered for the position, however. The Yankees gave the Halos permission to interview their two scouting directors, pro (Eppler) and amateur (Opp), earlier this month, and it seems like the Angels are starting to narrow the field down a bit. Dan Barbarisi wrote a great article about how Eppler and his department were able to unearth some hidden gems back in May.

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It’s still not official, but the Padres are expected to introduce Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer as their new general manager sometime soon. The team had reportedly expressed interest in Billy Eppler, the Yanks’ director of pro scouting, for the position, though apparently he was never interviewed for the gig. Like Hoyer, Eppler’s one of the game’s better young GM prospects, so it’s only a matter of time before someone hires him away from the boys in the Bronx. For now though, the Yanks are more than happy to have him.

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According to MLB.com’s Corey Brock, with a hat tip to MLBTR, Yanks director of pro scouting Billy Eppler has been rumored as a candidate for the Padres’ vacant GM spot. The Padres, however, have not yet asked permission to speak with him. Eppler has been Brian Cashman‘s most trusted adviser since 2005 and runs a department of 12 scouts who cover the Big Leagues and Japan. Assuming San Diego’s rumored interest is in fact true, this should be the first of many GM opportunities for Eppler, just 33 years old.

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