Steve Cohen is waiting to speak with two or three lucky finalists for the Mets’ managerial opening.
The Mets owner could begin conducting those interviews as soon as this weekend, after team officials on Thursday appeared to conclude Round 1 of the search for Luis Rojas’ replacement. Cohen will be in Florida over the next few days, meaning any managerial interviews this weekend will occur on a Zoom call. But it’s possible he will wait until early next week and meet with finalists in person.
The “mystery candidate” in question as the day began was Dodgers first-base coach Clayton McCullough, who became the sixth managerial hopeful to interview with general manager Billy Eppler and his staff. McCullough joined Buck Showalter, Brad Ausmus, Bob Geren, Joe Espada and Matt Quatraro among those who received a first-round interview.
McCullough, who turns 42 this month, interviewed for the Giants’ managing job that went to Gabe Kapler after the 2019 season. McCullough’s father, Howard, was a longtime professional scout with the Diamondbacks from the franchise’s inception in 1998, when Showalter was the manager.
All signs point to the 65-year-old Showalter as the front-runner at this point. The former Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rangers and Orioles manager left a strong impression on team officials during his Wednesday interview, according to a source, and would bring a gravitas to the position as the Mets look to contend for the NL East title next season after signing Max Scherzer to a three-year contract worth $130 million.
Scherzer, according to a source, has an affinity toward Showalter, whom he holds in high esteem. Showalter guided the Orioles to the postseason three times in 8 ½ seasons. But his final season in Baltimore was a disaster, with the Orioles finishing 47-115 in 2018. Since leaving the Orioles, he has interviewed with the Angels and Phillies for managerial openings.
Espada, the Astros bench coach, also is reportedly in contention for Oakland’s managerial vacancy. The 46-year-old Espada has a working relationship with Eppler from the Yankees. At the time Eppler was the assistant general manager and Espada served as a special assistant before moving to Joe Girardi’s coaching staff.
Geren and Ausmus are the candidates besides Showalter who hold previous major league managerial experience. The 60-year-old Geren was Oakland’s manager for 4 ½ seasons before serving as Mets bench coach from 2012-15. He’s spent the last six seasons as Dodgers bench coach under manager Dave Roberts. The 52-year-old Ausmus has managed the Tigers and Angels. At the latter stop he was hired by Eppler, who was persuaded by owner Arte Moreno to fire him after one season so the team could hire Joe Maddon. In Detroit, Ausmus’ first pitching rotation included Scherzer, who left after that 2014 season to sign with the Nationals.
The 48-year-old Quatraro has spent the past three seasons as Rays bench coach under manager Kevin Cash, helping direct a team that has won two straight AL East titles. Quatraro has also interviewed for Oakland’s managerial vacancy.
Once the manager is selected, the Mets will begin building a coaching staff. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner’s option for 2022 was picked up in October, but the team seeks replacements for Gary DiSarcina (third-base coach), Dave Jauss (bench coach), Tony Tarasco (first-base coach), Hugh Quattlebaum (hitting coach) and Ricky Bones (bullpen coach), among others. DiSarcina and Bones have joined the Nationals’ coaching staff this offseason. Rojas, whose 2022 option was declined by the Mets, joined the Yankees as their third-base coach.
— Additional reporting by Joel Sherman