January 20, 2020 | 8:41pm| Updated January 20, 2020 | 11:26pm
The shadow of an ownership change looms over the Mets’ managerial search, as team executives try to deduce the best way to please the prospective new boss.
Only days after Carlos Beltran’s departure as manager, after he was named in MLB’s report detailing the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme, there has been some level of paralysis in the Mets front office on how to proceed, a person familiar with the process indicated Monday. At issue is Steve Cohen’s impending majority ownership takeover and how the managerial hire by general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and his staff will be perceived by Cohen.
According to the person, there is concern that if the Mets hire somebody who wasn’t originally considered for the job, it will look bad to Cohen, reflecting poorly on a front office that will be in limbo once the ownership transfer is complete.
Cohen, a hedge-fund billionaire, has entered negotiations with the Sterling Partners — headed by Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz — to purchase up to 80 percent of the team. Under terms of the agreement Fred Wilpon would retain the title CEO for five years, with Jeff Wilpon remaining COO for the same time period. But it’s almost a given Cohen, as majority owner, would start calling the shots at some point this year once he is approved.
Cohen, a Mets minority owner since 2012, has chosen to remain in the background during this managerial search. It’s expected he will use this situation as a barometer in determining the front office’s mettle and aptitude.
The fear of team executives that Cohen would question the hiring of somebody who wasn’t considered for the job when Mickey Callaway was fired in October (veterans such as Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter, among others, weren’t interviewed) had tilted the search in quality control coach Luis Rojas’ favor as of Monday. Not only did Rojas receive multiple interviews for the job during the last managerial search, he would represent continuity, less than three weeks before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., for spring training.
Baker, 70, has been discussed as a possibility to manage the Mets, according to sources, but as of Monday — when he interviewed with the Astros — he had not been contacted by the team. According to reports, the Astros also plan on interviewing Eduardo Perez, who was a finalist for the Mets’ opening when Beltran got hired. Perez hadn’t been contacted by the Mets as of early Monday afternoon.
Another finalist for the job when Beltran was hired, Derek Shelton, recently became Pirates manager. Nationals first-base coach Tim Bogar (who has since been promoted to bench coach with Washington) also received strong consideration for the job, but it’s unclear if the Mets have sought permission to interview him again.
Internally, the Mets have bench coach Hensley Meulens and first-base coach Tony DeFrancesco as options. But Meulens’ potential candidacy is clouded by the fact he wasn’t interviewed for the position previously. DeFrancesco, who has previous interim managerial experience with the Astros in 2012, received an interview for the job in October.