Former Mets GM Billy Eppler suspended for fabricating injuries

AP photo by Seth Wenig / Billy Eppler listens during a news conference at the New York Mets' Citi Field on Dec. 20, 2022.
AP photo by Seth Wenig / Billy Eppler listens during a news conference at the New York Mets' Citi Field on Dec. 20, 2022.

NEW YORK — Former New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler was suspended through the 2024 World Series on Friday by Rob Manfred, with the baseball commissioner concluding Eppler directed team staff to fabricate injuries to create open roster spots.

Manfred said in a release that Eppler directed "the deliberate fabrication of injuries; and the associated submission of documentation for the purposes of securing multiple improper injured list placements during the 2022 and 2023 seasons."

Use of the so-called "phantom injured list" is thought to be common throughout baseball, but Eppler is the first to be disciplined.

"I cooperated fully and transparently with MLB's investigation, and I accept their decision," Eppler said in a released statement.

Eppler will not lose any salary as a result of the suspension. The Mets paid the remainder of his contract, which was set to run through the 2025 season, after he resigned last fall on the same day Major League Baseball's investigation became public.

Eppler's conduct involved close to seven players, a person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the players were not publicly identified.

MLB said it "concluded that the pattern of conduct was at Mr. Eppler's sole direction and without any involvement of club ownership or superiors."

The suspension will prevent Eppler from taking a job with another team until reinstated. Eppler will be allowed to apply for early reinstatement, MLB said.

No other Mets personnel were disciplined by the commissioner's office, a second person familiar with the investigation said, also on condition of anonymity.

MLB said it interviewed more than three dozen people in the investigation. Eppler was represented by lawyer Jay Reisinger.

Under MLB rules, a physician must certify an injury in the sport's computer records. MLB concluded any other staff involved with the misconduct participated at Eppler's direction.

Players have an economic incentive to go along with an IL stint. A player with a split contract calling for different salaries in the major and minor leagues would have received at least $3,978 per day while on an MLB injured list last year; for many the pay while assigned to the minors ranged from as little as $315 or $630, depending on whether they were on a 40-man roster that year for the first time.

Eppler, 48, was GM for the Mets from November 2021 until he quit last Oct. 5, three days after owner Steven Cohen hired David Stearns as president of baseball operations.

The Mets said in a statement they "consider the matter closed and will have no further comment."

Eppler was a New York Yankees assistant general manager from 2012-14 and then became GM of the Los Angeles Angels from 2015-20. He joined WME Sports in September 2021 as part of its baseball representation group, then two months later agreed to a four-year contract with the Mets and became their fifth head of baseball operations in 13 months.

MLB's discipline is the sport's most significant since Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended in January 2020 through that year's World Series for their roles in the team using a video camera to steal signs. Both were fired, the Astros were fined $5 million and the team forfeited four high-round amateur draft picks.

Alex Cora, who had been Houston's bench coach before becoming manager of the Boston Red Sox, was fired by that team and suspended by Manfred for the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season for his role in the Astros' scandal.

The Atlanta Braves lost 13 prospects and general manager John Coppolella was banned for life in November 2017 for circumventing international signing rules from 2015-17. Coppolella was reinstated in January 2023.