With the recent news that the Angels have chosen Jerry Dipoto to be their next GM comes good news for the Yankees: Two important members of the front office will be back in the Bronx next season. No, I’m not talking about Brian Cashman, whose contract is set to expire (and will presumably sign a new deal shortly). I’m talking instead about Damon Oppenheimer and Billy Eppler, the Yankees’ directors of amateur and pro scouting respectively.
The Angels interviewed both Oppenheimer and Eppler as candidates to fill their vacant GM spot, and they were impressed enough with Eppler to call him back for a second interview. Oppenheimer has rightfully been given a lot of credit for the turnaround in the Yankees’ draft success, and has frequently been discussed as a future GM by the media and many knowledgeable fans.
While Oppenheimer has received a lot of credit for the strength of the Yankee minor league system (deservedly so), Eppler’s significant contributions on the pro side have not been as widely recognized (outside of this excellent NY Times story by Tyler Kepner), which makes sense given the somewhat mysterious nature of pro scouting. Eppler clearly deserves a lot of credit for some of the Yankees’ below-the-radar signees for the 2011 season, such as Freddy Garcia, Russell Martin, Corey Wade, and Bartolo Colon, who were able to significantly contribute to the Yankees’ success this season. In previous years, Eppler has been responsible for doubling the number of pro scouts that the Yankees employ, and was a major part of the Yankees’ effort to centralize baseball operations under Brian Cashman.
That’s not to say that Eppler hasn’t had his share of failures, since presumably all free agent and trade acquisitions were scouted by him at some point, but the track record in recent years has been fairly impressive. Eppler comes from a scouting background but also is known to be a strong proponent of statistics, an important combination in this day and age when executives need to take multifaceted looks at players.
While both Oppenheimer and Eppler are still likely to be considered strong GM candidates in the future, the Yankees are better off as an organization to return these experienced and successful scouts to their front office. I imagine they will certainly get more interviews over the next few seasons, and eventually one or both of them could be gone, but having continuity in a successful and stable front office is important to ensure sustained success.
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