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New Mets GM Van Wagenen: 'We will win now'

Former agent says his vision for the club is to 'build, not rebuild'
October 30, 2018

NEW YORK -- Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon considers Brodie Van Wagenen a friend. So when Wilpon reached out to the longtime agent, with whom the club has negotiated deals for Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier and others, Van Wagenen was willing to give advice about general manager candidates around

NEW YORK -- Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon considers Brodie Van Wagenen a friend. So when Wilpon reached out to the longtime agent, with whom the club has negotiated deals for Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier and others, Van Wagenen was willing to give advice about general manager candidates around the Majors.
Near the end of one such conversation, Wilpon slipped in a personal question: Might Van Wagenen be interested in the job? Van Wagenen brushed it aside, but near the end of the regular season, as Wilpon fleshed out a list of more than three dozen candidates, he asked again. Curious, yet wary of upsetting his clients at CAA, Van Wagenen agreed to a private breakfast. Two and a half hours later, he emerged from the restaurant interested in talking more.

So it came to be that Van Wagenen knotted a blue-and-orange tie around his neck on Tuesday as the Mets introduced him as their general manager. Stressing his relationship with the Wilpons and his communication skills with players, Van Wagenen painted -- in broad terms, without identifying many specifics -- his vision for the club to "build, not rebuild."
"We will win now," Van Wagenen said. "We will win in the future. We're going to develop a winning culture and a winning mindset, and we will deliver this city and this fanbase a team they can be proud of."
To do so, Van Wagenen intends to build around one of his former star clients, Jacob deGrom, as well as the rest of the Mets' pitching staff. He will undoubtedly look to bolster the bullpen. He may consider catching help. The new GM vowed to speak with every free agent on the market, though Van Wagenen admitted that the Mets' financial appetite remains ownership's jurisdiction. At least part of their available money will go toward fleshing out the scouting, player-development and analytics departments, the latter of which ranks among baseball's smallest.
Other strategies will become clearer as he dives into the job; Tuesday was more about grand pronouncements and setting records straight. The Mets cleared Van Wagenen's hire with Major League Baseball, agreeing that he will recuse himself from negotiations with deGrom and other clients. While Van Wagenen cannot simply forget the sensitive information he knows about those players, he stressed that the benefits of the arrangement will outweigh the risks.

In particular, Van Wagenen said he intends to be more available and open with players than traditional GMs, who rarely venture into the clubhouse.
"One of the things that I've done for a living is manage personalities," Van Wagenen said. "I hope to bring that same mindset here."

A 44-year-old whose ex-clients included deGrom, Cespedes, Tim Tebow, Ryan Zimmerman and Robinson Cano, Van Wagenen is one of only a handful of agents to transition to a Major League front office. To make that leap, he severed all ties to CAA -- a process made easier by the fact he worked on a salary there, not on commissions. Jeff Berry and Nez Balelo have taken over as CAA's lead agents.
While moving from an agency to a front office is rare, it is not unprecedented. Recent examples include Dave Stewart, who switched from agent to D-backs GM in the fall of 2014, and Jeff Moorad, who gave up his agent career to become part-owner of the D-backs and then the Padres.

The NBA has featured two of sports' most successful transition stories. Kobe Bryant's longtime agent Rob Pelinka became Lakers GM in 2017, using his influence to sign superstar LeBron James this summer. And in 2011, the Warriors hired agent Bob Myers to be their assistant GM. He is now their president of basketball operations, helping construct the team that has won three of the last four NBA titles.
"Understanding the players' perspective translates," Myers said this weekend.
Baseball is a different sport, which Van Wagenen well knows, but the Mets are confident their new hire can enjoy similar success. Wilpon said he has given Van Wagenen "the latitude to be aggressive," though similar platitudes have fallen flat in the past. For a New York team with clear holes bent on staying relevant in the National League East, this offseason will be telling.

"We want to get this franchise to where the fans want it to be, which is a winning, sustainable franchise with years of winning going forward," Wilpon said. "He's going to bring some excitement. He's going to bring a different look at things than we've had from traditional GMs. He's got the full support of ownership behind him and he's going to bring us a sustainable winner. We're really energized by this."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.