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New GM hopes to keep deGrom 'for a long time'

Callaway to stay on as manager for 2019; other roles still undecided
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Back in July, months before Brodie Van Wagenen's dream of becoming the Mets' general manager took shape, he sent a shockwave through All-Star Media Day in Washington by releasing a statement saying the Mets should either sign Jacob deGrom to a long-term contract, or trade him.

It was mere minutes into Van Wagenen's news conference Tuesday that his statement resurfaced.

NEW YORK -- Back in July, months before Brodie Van Wagenen's dream of becoming the Mets' general manager took shape, he sent a shockwave through All-Star Media Day in Washington by releasing a statement saying the Mets should either sign Jacob deGrom to a long-term contract, or trade him.

It was mere minutes into Van Wagenen's news conference Tuesday that his statement resurfaced.

"I didn't expect that question," Van Wagenen said, laughing, when asked how he will handle deGrom's contract now that he has the power to fulfill his own ultimatum.

"Jacob deGrom clearly has established himself as the best pitcher in baseball," Van Wagenen continued. "Hopefully in a couple of weeks, he'll be awarded with that trophy. We want to try to identify the best players and you want to keep them for as long as possible. And if our vision and direction does not intend to include a long, sustainable, winning team, then you have to consider moving players. But make no mistake, I believe Jacob deGrom is an incredible talent and I hope to keep him for a long time."

On a day in which Van Wagenen offered few specifics about his plan for the Mets, he made it clear that he intends to "build, not rebuild," with hopes of constructing a contender for the upcoming season. Trading the likely National League Cy Young Award winner would directly contradict that goal.

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

But it does not mean Van Wagenen will be able to sign deGrom long-term, even if he wants to. Now two years away from free agency, and due healthy raises through arbitration both this season and next, deGrom has incentive to hold out for a crack at the open market in 2020. MLB Trade Rumors estimates that deGrom will make $12.9 million through arbitration this winter, meaning any extension would need to be an expensive one.

"I didn't promise anything to Jake," Van Wagenen said. "What I can say is regardless of who the player is -- this applies to Jacob and any other players on the team -- we need to identify who we want and who are part of the solutions. We need to figure out a way to keep them. We need to figure out who doesn't fit into what we want to accomplish and we need to figure out how to convert those guys into other assets. But right now, I want to identify who the great players are. Jacob deGrom is certainly one of them and I hope to keep him for a long time."

deGrom has not responded to messages seeking comment on both his own situation and his thoughts on Van Wagenen, his agent-turned-boss. But toward the end of the season, deGrom admitted that he may no longer be bullish about signing a long-term deal, saying: "Sometimes, you bet on yourself."

Van Wagenen said he reached out to deGrom and his other Mets clients during the GM search to assuage any fears of him taking the job.

Who stays? Who goes?
One of the few specifics that Van Wagenen made clear at his news conference was that Mickey Callaway will remain manager in 2019.

"I fully support him," Van Wagenen said. "I think one of the themes that I have discussed so far today, and will continue to be a calling card of this new regime, is a culture of positivity. He has enthusiasm. He has energy. And I want to embrace that and use that to inspire players."

Less clear are the fates of assistant general manager John Ricco, and special assistants Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi. Asked multiple times about those executives, Van Wagenen would not commit to keeping them, though chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in September that he hopes to keep all three. Answers on their jobs should come soon.

"All three are here this week, which I think is exciting," Van Wagenen said. "All three of those guys have a lot more experience on this side of the table than I do and we're looking forward to having those conversations."

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

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom