Theo Epstein
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Theo Epstein wants an ownership stake, so he’s staying put — for now. 

Tab Bamford

When the news started swirling that three-time World Series champion executive Theo Epstein was going to speak with the New York Mets about their president of baseball operations opening, fans got excited.

Understandably so. Epstein is young and has already helped two other tortured franchises — the Red Sox and Cubs — win championships.

Sadly, and predictable, when Epstein met with Steve Cohen the two sides agreed this wasn’t the right time or position for him to get back in the (baseball) game.

The offseason hasn’t officially started for all of Major League Baseball (though both New York teams now have extended free time). So this was certainly an early interview for the Mets.

But it does beg the question: who’s next on the Mets’ hit list? And who should be?

Naming the Candidates

Two names have already been prominently mentions in connection to the Mets: Oakland’s Billy Beane and Milwaukee’s David Stearns. Both have done terrific jobs in smaller markets. The big question with both of them is whether or not they would want to jump into the big city of New York.

In September, Jim Bowden mentioned three names the Mets should pursue in a column at The Athletic: Epstein, Erik Neander and Derek Falvey.

Neander, 38, took over as Tampa’s senior vice president and general manager in November 2016, which immediately made him a name on many lists.

As Bowden points out, Tampa has a long list of executives who did well with the Rays and left for more prominent gigs: Andrew Friedman left Tampa Bay to join the Dodgers in 2014, Chaim Bloom departed for the Red Sox in 2019, and James Click headed to the Astros in 2020.

Falvey, also 38, has been the Twins’ president of baseball operations since 2016. He’s done a nice job in a smaller market, but the fact this would be a lateral move would complicate the Mets’ ask for an interview.

When we offered our two-part series examining ways to fix the Mets, one name we threw out there was Paul DePodesta, who has been in Cleveland working for the Browns in the NFL.

Maybe hire a minority candidate?

The Mets reported re-branding efforts included trying to embrace a more multicultural audience. Maybe hiring a more diverse front office would be a good first step?

It would certainly set the Mets apart; minority candidates have been passed over far too often for front office positions in recent years — including the Mets.

A few names come to mind when considering quality candidates.

Michael Hill, 50, spent nearly two decades in the Marlins’ front office. The Harvard alum and former major leaguer joined Miami in 2002 — the beginning of Jeffrey Loria’s ownership — and succeeded Larry Beinfest as the Marlins’ president of baseball operations after the 2013 season.

Derek Jeter let Hill go after last season, and he was hired by Major League Baseball in February to serve as senior vice president of on-field operations. He was part of the 2003 World Series championship team in Miami.

De Jon Watson, 55, has been a Special Assistant to General Manager Mike Rizzo in Washington since 2017. Before that, he was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Senior Vice President of Baseball operations.

It might be tricky to take a smart person out of a division rival’s front office, but Watson has been part of building a World Series champion in DC.