Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

New York Mets president David Stearns first order of business is easy: Find a new manager.

Even better, Stearns wants to start with a clean slate. Several sources, including The Athletic, report that Stearns won’t hire from within. Prioritizing candidates outside the organization will only fuel the Craig Counsell rumors.

To be fair, Counsell leaving the Brewers for the Mets is an interesting idea. He and Stearns know each other well and he seems the right man at the right time. The job is probably his if he wants it.

But Stearns is a smart, shrewd executive who knows how to keep his options open. He’s probably considering not only Craig Counsell, but several other qualified names.

Let’s take a look at the candidates and what each would bring to the Mets.

Craig Counsell. On paper, Counsell has every reason to move on from Milwaukee. The Brewers are a $1.6 billion franchise that operates like a Midwestern mom-and-pop. Imagine what an already solid manager could do, but with Steve Cohen as his owner.

The problem is that Craig Counsell doesn’t just manage in Milwaukee, but he is Milwaukee. He lives there year-round and grew up in the city’s Whitefish Bay neighborhood. Would he leave all of that behind for the bright lights of the Big Apple? It’d be hard for Counsell to say good-bye to his home city, but the Brewers will only ever give him so many tools to succeed.

By comparison, he’d have almost unlimited resources working for Cohen.

Kevin Long. The veteran hitting coach is currently with the NL East rival Phillies and has interviewed for a handful of manager jobs over the years. Long also worked with the Mets for three seasons and though his name hasn’t been tied anywhere this offseason, his resume speaks for itself. He has two World Series rings as a hitting coach, one with the Yankees in 2009 and another with the Nationals in 2019.

Long isn’t a spring chicken at 56, but players seem to like him. He knows New York well, with 11 combined seasons between the Yankees and Mets. He could be a great fit on a team trying to develop a young and powerful lineup.

Joe Maddon. We’ve discussed Maddon as a candidate before and our opinion hasn’t changed. It’s hard to imagine the 69-year-old managing the Mets in 2024. Two years of Buck Showalter is proof enough that New York needs to get some younger leadership.

That said, Maddon isn’t as old school as his age suggests. He’s always been a player’s manager and embraces analytics. It’s unlikely that he’ll win a World Series in Flushing, but he could be something of a reverse Casey Stengel. Instead of just being a wise voice on a fledgeling team, he’ll keep a rebuilding one competitive.

Joe Espada. We’ve got another Joe and another former Yankees coach in Espada. He’s currently the bench coach in Houston and has over a decade of MLB coaching experience with three teams. Espada also interviewed for the Rangers’ managing job in 2018 and the Cubs’ the following year.

Tim Britton and Will Sammon at The Athletic named him as someone on the Mets’ shortlist, and Espada would indeed be a great hire. He’s younger at 48 years old and is second-in-command to future Hall of Famer Dusty Baker.

Add that he also interviewed for the job back in 2021, and Espada looks an even stronger fit if the Mets are interested.

Joe McEwing. Hiring McEwing to manage the Mets would be equal parts sentimental and smart. It’d be sentimental because he spent five years with the Mets as a player and was a popular utility infielder.

It’d be smart to hire McEwing for simple baseball reasons. He spent 11 years as a coach with the White Sox and was the Cardinals’ bench coach in 2023. McEwing has also interviewed for a handful of managing jobs across the league, including with the Mets back in 2018. He wasn’t hired, but reportedly still considers managing in New York his “dream job,” per Mike Puma of the Post.

He hasn’t interviewed anywhere yet this offseason, but McEwing’s ties to the Mets are strong. There’s every chance he’ll be a finalist for the big chair again if Stearns brings him to New York for a visit at Citi Field.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.