The New York Mets did something reasonable: they went outside the box. With Halloween 2018 being the final day of the Sandy Alderson tenure officially, they hired a new general manager for the next four years. Instead of taking the easy nominee in Doug Melvin, the former head of the Brewers, they took an interesting choice. Brodie Van Wagenen, the co-founder of the baseball division at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), got the new job to oversee the future. This is a gutsy career move for Van Wagenen and a bold move by the much-maligned Mets ownership.
Brodie Van Wagenen technically now was the player agent for no less than 5 current Mets players. These include aces Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, third baseman Todd Frazier, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and pitcher Jason Vargas. Because of the promotion, he becomes their “boss” rather than their agent. This causes an interesting conflict of interest that the MLB Players Association and the front office at MLB are watching. deGrom and Syndergaard are both up for arbitration again and expect to get big bucks. However, Omar Minaya, the second-in-command under the new regime, will likely have to be the negotiator as Van Wagenen cannot handle those fairly.
This is not something that happens every day, which is something that the Mets need. The Mets are a franchise who could have won the World Series in 2015 with a little better execution. Instead, they were shown up by the Kansas City Royals. It happens. Regardless, the front office and Sandy Alderson basically parted ways when Alderson said he was going on medical leave due to a return of his cancer. That same day, Alderson basically fired himself from his position in his wording. In Alderson’s place, a three-headed triumvirate of Omar Minaya, J.P. Riccardi and John Ricco (the believed heir to the GM throne) took over operations. In that time period, Ricco stood out as the man who spoke for the triumvirate. It seemed to be Ricco’s job to lose.
Then, the Mets went a different direction. They went outside the organization with Omar Minaya and John Ricco leading the operation of finding a new general manager. Jeff Wilpon, the son of the main owner, Fred Wilpon, also would be involved in this situation. That said, there were weeks of speculation that the Mets would end up going backwards with an old-school general manager. The fact that Fred Wilpon hated analytics was a reason for this belief. However, Jeff Wilpon also felt like they needed some form of analytics and were looking for a hybrid version of it. By last week, it was down to Doug Melvin, Chaim Bloom (assistant GM with the Rays) and Van Wagenen.
Everyone, including this writer, thought the Wilpons were going to go the safe route with Doug Melvin, a man who basically said he was too old for the Brewers job three years ago. Hiring Melvin would be a very Metsian thing to do and lead to more criticism. For a change, the Wilpons, who are very media-aware, let their paranoia cause the right decision and move on from Melvin. When it broke that Melvin was not going to get the job, speculation came to Chaim Bloom and Van Wagenen. Bloom would have been the super-analytics man who would be able to make the future possible in Willets Point. Van Wagenen was thought to be just a courtesy interview.
While Chaim Bloom would have been the best pick of all the overall nominees, there are a couple things to keep in mind with Van Wagenen. While Bloom, a front office man, would have some knowledge of other teams, but not all, Van Wagenen has inside knowledge of all 30 teams. As Richard Justice on MLB.com notes, agents have a lot of owners confide stuff in them they would not to other executives. Second, the idea of an agent becoming the general manager means he already has the ability to discuss contracts for an organization and is a strong money manager.
Finally, the Mets did something they needed, went younger and bolder. While Dave Stewart was a bust in the pitcher-agent-general manager approach, they are taking a chance on Van Wagenen. They deserve to be given some applause for their bolder choice. Most of the time, the Wilpons cannot get out of their own way. Van Wagenen is a great choice for the idea of fixing a Mets organization that needs help.
Now, he just needs some power.
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