The San Diego Padres appear to be focusing most closely on Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler for their vacant general manager position, and Eppler looks like the probable front-runner now with Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller seen as the other finalist, people familiar with the job search say.
Eppler had been viewed previously as a strong possibility but perhaps behind Preller at some point in the long interview process. The final four in the extensive search, which has taken more than a month now, also includes MLB VP Kim Ng, the former assistant GM of the Dodgers White Sox and Yankees; and Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen, though Eppler and Preller have been considered the likely leaders the past few weeks.
It isn't certain what, if anything, might have swung things, but it seems like Eppler has an excellent chance at the job now.
An announcement is expected this week, as Scott Miller of Bleacher Report reported, and it could come as early as Wednesday.
Padres president Mike Dee tweeted that he was in the Boston area bicycling in the PMC35 bicycle race, which stands for Pan-Massachusetts, over the weekend. Eppler was in Boston with the Yankees, who were playing a three-game series with the Red Sox, but it isn't known whether the pair met a third time there.
Miller also mentioned Sunday on Twitter that Eppler was still "very much in the picture."
Eppler has served in recent years as Yankees GM Brian Cashman's right-hand man in New York after transferring north from the storied team's Tampa operation. Before that, Eppler worked for the Rockies.
Eppler grew up in San Diego and Orange County, Calif., so this would be a homecoming for him.
A three-man committee of A.J. Hinch, Omar Mianya and Fred Uhlman Jr. served as GM through the trade deadline, with the Padres ultimately trading three veterans -- third baseman Chase Headley, closer Huston Street and outfielder Chris Denorfia -- while holding onto reliever Joaquin Benoit and starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, who were mentioned prominently in talks. The Street deal, while a big boon to the Angels in their playoff push, was widely praised from the Padres perspective.
That trio replaced Josh Byrnes, a holdover from the previous regime who was let go by Dee. Byrnes had served as GM only 2½ years before his ousting.
Hinch and Minaya pulled out of the GM derby early, and Uhlman, a longtime Padres employee, never considered the job.