WASHINGTON -- Brodie Van Wagenen has insisted that his new team of front-office special advisors -- David Wright, John Franco, Al Leiter and Jessica Mendoza -- are not just for show. The first bit of tangible proof occurred last week in Port St. Lucie, Fla., when Wright stepped into Van Wagenen’s office, grabbed a marker and began sketching out contract structures for Jacob deGrom.
As they tried to find a way to extend deGrom, the Mets were relying on Wright as their “secret weapon.” Already, Wright had done his best to convince the team that deGrom was the type of person the Mets could feel comfortable committing to. Now he was on the white board, using his perspective as a player -- he once signed an eight-year, $138-million deal that remains the largest in Mets history -- to come up with deal structures that would appeal to deGrom. The idea was to come up with as many versions of a contract as possible without actually increasing or decreasing the value.
The structure to which deGrom ultimately agreed originated at least in part with Wright: a five-year, $137.5-million contract with an opt-out, a sixth-year team option and millions in interest-free deferred money.
“I think he is now officially the most valuable special advisor in baseball history,” Van Wagenen said of Wright. “His work on our end and his help in ultimately coming up with a creative deal structure that we could then go to work on was important.”
When deGrom debuted in 2014, he took immediately to Wright’s mentorship, leaning on him in particular in recent years. The two became friends and, in Van Wagenen’s words, “David has been a pretty good mentor to Jacob over the course of his career.”
Still, deGrom was unaware of Wright’s involvement in the contract proceedings until the day he signed, when the former captain called to congratulate him -- sort of. When Wright negotiated his own contract extension in 2012, he made sure the total value reached $138 million -- $500,000 more than Johan Santana’s then-franchise record. Like Santana, deGrom maxed out at $137.5 million in guaranteed money.
“I talked to him after and he said, ‘You’re still short of me on the biggest one,’” deGrom said, laughing.