Mets cut GM search to three candidates

October 22nd, 2018

NEW YORK -- Paring their list of general manager candidates down to three, the Mets began callback interviews Monday with a group of finalists featuring wildly divergent skillsets and experiences. Chaim Bloom, Doug Melvin and Brodie Van Wagenen are the remaining contenders for the Mets' top baseball operations position, according to a source.

The first to receive a callback was Van Wagenen, 44, who spoke with Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon and his son, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, on Monday. As the lead baseball agent at CAA, Van Wagenen's clients include Mets players , , and Tim Tebow. He's the only finalist without prior front-office experience and, while others have made that leap -- most prominently, the Lakers hired Kobe Bryant's ex-agent Rob Pelinka as their GM last year -- there is little precedent in baseball.

Another prominent agent, Jeff Moorad, became a part-owner and chief executive officer of the Diamondbacks in 2004, overseeing departments that included baseball ops. Others, such as Dave Stewart, left the agent ranks to become baseball ops executives, but none with the type of Rolodex that Van Wagenen boasts. In addition to his Mets clients, Van Wagenen reps and , both of whom have nine-figure contracts.

Some within the industry harbor doubts that Van Wagenen would leave a multimillion-dollar agency to become a GM, but he is at least considering the opportunity. While the Mets plan to make each of their finalists available to the media as part of their callback interview process, Van Wagenen declined to participate in a conference call "because he is not willing to compromise his current role during this process," according to a Mets official.

"I believe baseball is better when the Mets are competitive and successful," Van Wagenen said in a statement. "As Jeff and Fred continue their search for a new head of baseball operations, the players, fans and entire organization will be motivated to have a leader with the skills and commitment to win. If the Wilpons believe I am that person, we will have that conversation."

Bloom, 35, is the youngest and most analytically minded interviewee. As the Rays' senior vice president of baseball operations, he oversees functions ranging from contract negotiations to international scouting. Helping construct a team that finished 90-72 this year in the ultracompetitive American League East, Bloom was among those who signed off on Tampa Bay's "opener" strategy, frequently using relief pitchers in the first inning of games.

"You talk to him for a minute, and it becomes obvious he's a really smart guy," said one person who has worked with Bloom.

Melvin, 66, has served as GM in both Texas and Milwaukee, putting his fingerprints on a 2018 Brewers club that fell a game shy of the World Series. Now a senior adviser for the Brewers, Melvin may appeal in particular to the elder Wilpon, who, according to sources, prefers candidates with extensive scouting and player-development experience.

But Melvin is by far the oldest of the Mets' remaining candidates, just four years younger than outgoing GM Sandy Alderson. When Melvin stepped aside as the Brewers' GM in 2015, he said: "The job had just grown to a point that it's more suited for somebody who's younger than me."

"The general manager's job has changed dramatically," Melvin said at the time. "You have sports psychologists, you've got the medical side, you've got the analytics, you've got amateur scouting, you've got professional scouting. And the thing you haven't even talked about is the Major League team."

Likely by the end of this month, the Mets will choose one candidate from a process that initially included several dozen. No fewer than nine interviewed this month, including Cardinals director of player development Gary LaRocque, Tigers vice president of baseball operations Dave Littlefield, Major League Baseball senior director of baseball operations Kim Ng and Nationals special assistant De Jon Watson. Ng, one of the last people to be cut, is also reportedly involved in the Orioles' and Giants' searches.