Incoming New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler tasked with building contender through free agency

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets introduced new general manager Billy Eppler and made their intentions for the offseason clear.

They're hoping to spend money on free agents, and a lot of it.

Mets owner Steve Cohen made the team's desire to build a postseason contender clear on Monday, as the team introduced its third general manager since the start of the 2021 calendar year after the team fired Jared Porter for sending explicit text messages to a reporter and fired interim general manager Zack Scott after a DWI arrest. With the team's lack of farm system depth, Cohen said the team will need to spend money or make trades.

"We want to win our division and be in the playoffs and win in the playoffs," Cohen said. "So you know, we've got to field a team that has the ability to do that. I've let Billy and Sandy know that it's whatever they need, and I'm open to their suggestions and recommendations and the goal is for a competitive team on the field."

The Mets collapsed over the course of the 2021 season, holding onto first place for 103 days but ultimately finishing 77-85 and missing the playoffs over the final two months of the season after losing ace Jacob deGrom to an elbow injury. The Braves and Phillies eventually leapfrogged over New York in the division, with Atlanta eventually going on to win the World Series.

Eppler said his top priority going into the job will be to rebuild the team's rotation, which lost free-agent pitcher Noah Syndergaard on a one-year, $21 million contract to the Los Angeles Angels.

"We're going to have some resources behind us," Eppler said. "We had one player who signed somewhere else in Noah and we just really want to reinforce the overall depth. We are going to entertain things in the outfield and entertain things in the infield."

Eppler will need to hire a new manager after the team fired Luis Rojas after the season. Eppler said he will talk to the baseball operations department about the best approach on hiring a skipper, balancing the factors between in-game management, analytical approach and clubhouse culture creation.

"That's a process I'm going to start with this afternoon," Eppler said. "I have a little bit of my own feeling on that, but I'd rather hold back on getting what exactly that criteria is at the moment because I want to have the group engage."

Eppler spent 2015 through 2020 in the Angels organization, which had internal issues of its own. Federal prosecutors charged former Angels communication director Eric Kay with felony distribution charges following the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs due to an opioid overdose. The team also fired pitching coach Mickey Callaway -- whom the Angels hired in 2020 -- after Callaway violated the league's sexual harassment policies.

Cohen said the organization did due diligence in performing a background check on Eppler prior to his hiring.

"We vetted it multiple ways, we spoke to a lot of people who were around the organization at that time, spoke to people within baseball," Cohen said. "We're incredibly confident with Billy and his decision-making and his ethics and his integrity."

Eppler said the Callaway situation evolved his vetting process with job candidates.

"The industry in general has a vetting process that's evolved," Eppler said. "We have greater resources because of it. ... There's not really anything more specific I can add today."

Mets president Sandy Alderson said he that he will be hands-off in baseball operations decision-making.

"I expect Billy to be driving this operation; I will be available as a resource," Alderson said. "As time goes on, I would expect that Billy will have more latitude than he will have immediately, but I would expect that latitude to expand and that my role will diminish."

Eppler's Angels teams did not make the playoffs during his tenure, and he hopes that trend won't keep up in New York.

"In '17, '18, '19, we really had a real chance to overtake Houston," Eppler said. "We played a little bit safer, and didn't want to burden the organization long term. A lot of those free-agent deals didn't work out. My biggest takeaway is the importance of depth. That's my biggest takeaway."