Being honest, when I saw Brodie Van Wagenen’s name mentioned as a possibility for the Mets General Manager position I didn’t really take it that seriously. I knew the Mets had a great working relationship with Van Wagenen and his firm CAA, but I did not think that would amount to him actually getting the GM job. Like a lot of people, I thought Doug Melvin was the clear favorite and if they didn’t hire them they’d go ahead and give the job to Tampa Bay Rays Senior VP of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom. The perception that Fred and Jeff Wilpon would go the “safe” route was simply hard to ignore.
But here we are, the Mets have hired an agent to run their baseball operations. Bloom was called an “outside the box” candidate and if he is “outside the box” I have no idea where to place Van Wagenen. I have been asked by friends, family and people on the internet what I think about the hire and I can only come up with one word: Intrigued. I am intrigued because there are so many layers to it, there is high risk and potentially high reward. I am going to try to go through some pro’s and con’s because I think there is genuine reason for excitement and genuine reason for concern.
The first of the concerns is the conflict of interest as it’s well known that Van Wagenen/CAA represent a lot of Mets players and prospects such as Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Nimmo, Noah Syndergaard, Jason Vargas, Todd Frazier, Robert Gsellman, Tim Tebow, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay and David Peterson. That’s a long list. At the end of the day, players have the rights at any time to switch agencies, or they can trust the other great agents that are still at CAA. The concern is that Brodie has a lot of information personally and medically on these players and could that be something used against the players in contractual negotiations or arbitration hearings? From everything I hear Van Wagenen is a total pro and has a great relationship with the clients that are Mets, but now he’s coming from the other side of a negotiating table. It will be interesting to follow for sure.
First question for Van Wagenen: “Brodie, last July you said the Mets should either trade deGrom or give him a contract. So what are you going to do?”— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) October 29, 2018
If you remember during the All Star Break this past year Van Wagenen put out a statement essentially saying the Mets should extend deGrom or trade him to someone who will. Does Van Wagenen feel the same today? He knows the contract he was demanding from the Mets for deGrom, so does he simply just give it to him? Does he come on the other side of the table and realize he still has arbitration years left and let it ride? If he doesn’t just give it to him does deGrom go and run to Scott Boras? That can make things quite contentious. The deGrom situation is the one Mets CAA client to really keep an eye on in the coming months.
We have not even touched on the fact the Mets hired an agent who has never worked in a MLB front office in any way to completely run their baseball operations department. That sounds crazy on the surface, doesn’t it? What are his organization philosophies? He reportedly wants to vastly upgrade the analytics department, which the Mets have the second smallest analytics department in all of Major League Baseball. You can add people but will you implement their thoughts and findings to make the baseball team better? That was an issue this past year as the analytics department suggested against signing Vargas and Jay Bruce. We figure Omar Minaya and John Ricco are for sure safe to stay, who else stays and goes? What executives in baseball does Brodie have enough of a relationship with to get them to jump and help the Mets? He is going to have to get a lot of help from baseball people as he migrates over to this new role on the other side of the table.
With all that being said, there are reasons to be optimistic that this could work out well. He is going to have to lean heavily on the likes of Minaya and Ricco to navigate some of the day to day things, but he provides a lot of traits that are super important for a GM to have. He is brilliant, he is very well liked throughout the league despite being known as a difficult negotiator and he has close relationships with the high level executives for every team in the game.
A big part of a GM’s job is the ability to delegate and do it properly. He has experience with that because he headed the baseball division at CAA. It isn’t exactly the same, but it can transfer over. He has worked closely with Minaya and Ricco a lot over the years, and there is belief they will work extremely well together. He has the confidence and the ability to be the alpha in the room, which is very important in this role.
Van Wagenen is leaving a job where he made A LOT of money. Likely a lot more money than he’d tentatively be making here as the GM. Forbes declared that Van Wagenen made $25 Million in commission in 2018. I have had people refute that number, but either way the number is likely a good amount higher than the average GM salary. The point is that he likely is coming to the Mets on a pay cut, which along with his personality, I don’t think you are going to see Van Wagenen coming in and getting pushed around by the Wilpons. Some have said he could convince them to spend more and I am not prepared to say that yet, but I have a feeling he will have a bit more autonomy than maybe past GM’s have had.
Van Wagenen is a tremendous speaker who will have zero issue with the media which is huge in New York. Frankly, in speaking to people in the know, that was the major knock on Bloom. Many think he just simply isn’t ready for the promotion from VP of Baseball Ops in Tampa Bay to running the New York Mets. Van Wagenen will not struggle with that at all. He knows how to handle the media at a high level, and I predict Mets fans will be super impressed with his press conference and how he presents himself.
I mentioned that he reportedly wants to vastly upgrade the analytics staff and assuming they actually listen to them that can only be a good thing. The big time agents nowadays have to be very analytically driven and aware because if they do not, then they will get owned in the negotiation room by all of these teams. He may not be Chaim Bloom analytics wise, but you are hiring someone who is very aware of them and very much aware of the value that is in them.
When it comes to negotiating, there are few better in the game at doing so than Brodie Van Wagenen. He is going to bring that ability to the other side of the table which should be a big benefit for the Mets. He has a good relationship and the respect of executives throughout the league where with the assistance of some of the baseball people he should be able to do a great job of negotiating trades with other clubs. I am very interested to see how he handles negotiations with agents on potential free agents. He really KNOWS the agent game, so he is not going to be falling for a lot of the games that the agents play. This to me should only prove beneficial as he is pursuing free agents to help the Mets improve.
I am very intrigued at the move. I crush the Wilpons online frequently for things that they do being so predictable and safe. They went outside the box, very outside the box and they deserve credit for taking such a risk. This risk does not come without potential for colossal failure, but I think anyone dismissing Van Wagenen’s capabilities to do this job are being extremely presumptuous. Many in the league believe he will be able to handle the role fine and could potentially provide a new spark with a young, energetic and alpha type mentality. We are going to see how it goes, but I think there is reason for optimism. LGM!