What if the new GM is as impressed with another candidate during the interview process as Sandy Alderson was with Mickey Callaway (yes, that one is still very difficult to understand)?
Eppler hasn’t laid out his criteria publicly so perhaps anything is possible.
With that in mind, I asked around about some of the other known candidates and came away most intrigued by comments I heard from people who know Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro.
Two team executives familiar with the 48-year-old Quatraro said they had no doubt he will get a shot to manage at some point, owing to his baseball intelligence, his ability to connect with players, and his 22 years in the Rays’ organization.
“It’s pretty obvious that teams want to tap into whatever it is that has made Tampa Bay so successful even with all their market-size limitations,” one exec said. “Look at all the people they’ve lost. I think Quatraro could be the next guy.”
It’s true. Three current GMs -- Andrew Friedman, Chaim Bloom, James Click -- were hired out of the Rays’ front office. And two managers -- Charlie Montoyo and Rocco Baldelli -- were plucked off the coaching staff.
Like those coaches, Quatraro has the benefit of working side-by-side with Kevin Cash, universally considered one of the top managers in baseball, doing so as his bench coach the last three seasons.
Quatraro, a former minor league catcher, also managed four years in the minors for the Rays. Beyond his association with the organization’s secret sauce, Quatraro is said to have all the qualities to succeed as a big league manager.
One exec even compared him to the highly-respected Bob Melvin, the manager Alderson wanted to hire this offseason, only to learn that Melvin wanted to stay on the west coast, moving from his long run with the Oakland Athletics to take the job with the San Diego Padres.
“I know Matt fairly well and I see a lot of similarities with Bob,” the exec said. “They’re both very bright, studious, and they’re both low-key personality-wise but very good communicating and developing relationships with players. The big unknown is always how a guy will handle the stress that comes with managing, especially the first time around.”
Former Met Anthony Recker, now an SNY analyst, played in the minors with the then-Cleveland Indians in 2017 when Quatraro was the assistant hitting coach there, and he’s one person who says he’d hire Quatraro, even over Showalter.
“I want somebody who is going to be there for the next 10 years,” Recker said. “I want to find the next guy, not the guy who’s already done it, and from my own experience with Matt, I’d take a chance with Matt.
“He understood how to interact with players, getting to know them on a personal level before suggesting any changes in what they were doing. I thought that was very important. He was a student of who you are first, and not just someone telling you what to do. You learn to trust a guy like that.
“He’s supremely intelligent and he was very observant, very organized. And when he spoke everything was always well thought out. To me, those kind of people tend to be the best leaders.”
Recker did admit to having one reservation about Quatraro managing specifically in New York.
“I hesitate to say he’d be good with the media only because he’s not outspoken in that way,” Recker said. “He didn’t have a ton of personality. But I was only with him in spring training, so he could have more personality than I saw.
“I do think you need some personality with the media in New York because you’re going to get asked the same question 12 different ways, and you have to find ways to laugh about it, joke about it, whatever. I’m not 100 percent he’ll be able to handle that. Otherwise I think he’ll be a great manager.”
With that in mind, I asked a couple of reporters who have been around Quatraro, and while both were complimentary of his coaching skills, they agreed he’s not a high-wattage personality.
Around the Rays in recent years, in fact, players kiddingly called him by the nickname they gave him: “Fun Police.”
“They like him, so it wasn’t a negative thing,” one reporter said. “He just has a serious demeanor. He’s actually very sharp, and he’s good with the barbs sometimes with players and the rest of the coaches, but managing in New York would be interesting.
“He’s not going to be like Joe Torre, sitting around telling stories with the media, but he’s been around the game long enough to know how it works. And he’s very good with all the analytical stuff, knowing how to break it down for the players. Also, he’s very involved on the bench with Cash with all the in-game stuff. The feeling around the Rays since Baldelli and Montoyo left is that Matt will be the next to go.”
Still, it would be an upset if he goes to the Mets. Hiring Showalter seems to be a no-brainer. But what if Eppler comes away from interviewing Quatraro thinking he indeed could be another Melvin? Is there a chance Eppler takes such a gamble?