Entering the great unknown with Brodie Van Wagenen

Last week we had a poll asking readers who they wanted the next GM to be out of the three finalists for the job. The overwhelming majority, 81 percent, voted for Chaim Bloom. My expectation was that Bloom would be the fans’ choice. But the margin was surprising. Throughout the years, there have been no shortage of times where readers here expressed a desire or preference for veterans.

Doug Melvin was a veteran GM, a two-time winner as Executive of the Year, and his teams were generally successful. Under his watch, the Rangers made the playoffs three times, after never making the postseason previously in franchise history. Under his stewardship, the Brewers ended a 14-year streak of never finishing above .500 and in 2008 they made the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

My expectation was that he would have polled better.

There were no expectations from me how Brodie Van Wagenen would poll. If asked to guess, my expectation was that the people who voted for him were actually voting against the other two candidates. In effect, he was the Jill Stein of this particular poll. People who cast their lot with Stein were saying that they had no confidence in either of the other two candidates and rather than voting for a known “evil” – they would cast their lot with the unknown.

Van Wagenen garnered just seven percent in our poll. Yet this relative unknown looks like he’s going to be the next GM for the Mets. Is that good? Beats me and it seems impossible for anyone to have any real knowledge of how it will play out. Let’s hope it goes better than the last time that an agent became an MLB GM. Dave Stewart’s tenure running the Diamondbacks lasted a little over two years. The former All-Star pitcher showed a preference for pitchers, signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million deal. He also overpaid in a deal to get Shelby Miller.

And Stewart’s situation was different from Van Wagenen’s because he had served in MLB front offices after his playing career ended and before he became an agent. One of his stops was as an assistant to Sandy Alderson in Oakland. Stewart was a star player, he served in various front office roles and he had experience at the other end of the bargaining table as an agent. And he didn’t do well.

The situation looks better in other sports, particularly in the NBA, where agents have gone on to be successful GMs, including Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. One of the things that Myers has done successfully in Oakland is to install an organization-wide culture of togetherness. And if there’s any MLB team that needs a culture change, it’s our Mets.

Now, you may roll your eyes, thinking this is nothing but meaningless buzz words, strung together to make something big out of, essentially, nothing. It certainly has the possibility to be just that. It’s easy to say the right things. It’s a little more difficult to actually do it.

Is Van Wagenen the guy to walk the walk? None of us know. What we do know is that he sold the Wilpons – or at least one of them – on his candidacy. Is this a Fred Wilpon hire? He’s the one who thought that Art Howe lit up the room, so forgive me if my hope is that Jeff sold Fred on this.

No one likes Jeff Wilpon. He’s the ultimate case of a guy being born on third base who acts as if he hit a triple. Fred is a self-made man and Jeff, well, he’s simply not. And no doubt he’s done some dumb, tone-deaf things. But is it at least not among the possibilities that he’s grown? It’s not a position that I relish taking. But everyone was seemingly scared that Melvin was going to be the choice. It was the safe choice and the Mets – regardless if it was a mutual Wilpon decision or one talked the other into it – didn’t take the safe route.

In fact, this was the least safe route they could have taken.

It seems like there are multiple reasons to criticize the move to hire Van Wagenen. But it doesn’t seem to me to be a tone-deaf move. So, let’s start there. The Mets needed to do something different than what they’ve done for at least the last eight years and my opinion is that they need to do it differently than the way it’s been done since Bobby Valentine was shown the door rather than Steve Phillips.

The Mets did something slightly different by hiring a pitching coach to be their manager. And now they’ve done something majorly different by hiring an agent to be their general manager. There were certainly some growing pains with Mickey Callaway last year. We should expect there to be growing pains with Van Wagenen, too.

But that’s ok. Growing pains should be temporary, with an end result of something better. Certainly my preference would be to experience growing pains rather than have a smooth beginning and a fabulous flame out of disappointment. You know, like with manager Howe.

Perhaps one of the first challenges that Van Wagenen will face is how to deal with Jacob deGrom. As his agent, Van Wagenen was quite vocal about how deGrom deserved an extension. Will GM Van Wagenen feel and act the same way?

It will be fun to find out.

28 comments for “Entering the great unknown with Brodie Van Wagenen

  1. Steve S.
    October 28, 2018 at 9:49 am

    I’m guardedly optimistic about this hire.

    For one thing, the Mets could have signed Bloom for less money while they liked his track record of doing well with lower spending than most teams. But they didn’t. I’m hopeful that BVW wouldn’t have taken the job without having significant power (i.e., not having to have everything approved by the Wilpons) and without being able to spend at least adequately (and, of course, “wisely”).

    I am nervous about Ricco, Minaya, et al. being retained while he “learns,” however.

    • October 28, 2018 at 10:23 am

      Yeah, that last part may have been why he was ultimately chosen – the ability to keep some or all of the 3-headed monster.

  2. TexasGusCC
    October 28, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Brian, the agents in the NBA had basketball people running the show. Jerry West put together the Warriors. He drafted a skinny shooter out of Davidson that was considered too frail. He traded for an erratic Kristen Thompson.

    While I usually say “let’s give the man a chance”, knowing BVW has no experience, maybe bringing in Bloom to be President of Baseball Operations”? Nope. They aren’t hiring anyone else. Seems the Wilpons gauged their conversation by which GM thought the team was ready to win now. Bloom wanted a small remake, BVW told them they could win with what they had and a few bullpen pieces. Further, BVW keeps the status quo because it’s so successful. A continuation of blaming Alderson means they are keeping the henchmen. Bad optics, as Alderson would say.

    Well, buckle up and let’s see how this roller coaster plays out, while seeing how the guys that were responsible for the bad baseball operations – because Alderson surely wasn’t watching how minor leaguers are coached – are actually kept on to keep doing what they do.

    • October 28, 2018 at 10:43 am

      Jerry West was not the GM of the Warriors. He joined the Warriors as a board member (and minority stakeholder) in 2011 and Curry was drafted in 2009. And the Warriors didn’t win until Steve Kerr and Myers came aboard.

      Your speculation about VW being hired because of his win now approach may be true. But it’s hard to believe that the guy in his mid 60s with previous GM experience wasn’t singing the same tune.

      • TexasGusCC
        October 28, 2018 at 11:06 am

        I don’t know about Melvin, but I read (Martino?) that Cherington and others that felt the team wasn’t ready to win now weren’t even interviewed and of those that were, their win expectancy played a role. Freddie Coupon wants to win now.

        • Jennifer C
          October 28, 2018 at 11:12 am

          Of course, they don’t want a rebuild. I understand wanting to win now, but they never do enough to make it happen. Thus, they’re delusional. 2015 was one of those years, where they were lucky. What were they? 2 games over or under at All-Star Break. Their SP kept them afloat when they couldn’t score runs, then Ces 2nd half savior, and Murph in post season until WS. Everything had to be just right. They don’t sustain success, they have little pockets of maybe. While they’re at it, they just wasted a brilliant, beautiful season by deGrom because, wait for it, they don’t go for it. They want to win, but where’s the offense? It’s NY, do something big. And by big, I don’t mean hiring 25% of the active roster’s agent. Geez.

          • TexasGusCC
            October 28, 2018 at 1:36 pm

            ^+1

          • Chris F
            October 28, 2018 at 3:15 pm

            2 for 2 Jennifer. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  3. Jennifer C
    October 28, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Here’s the problem: this is a NY Franchise. I don’t want to see more growing pains as someone learns on the fly how to run a baseball team. The Wilpons are tone-deaf, incompetent, and rich insiders who think they can get away with anything they do. It’s enough already. I had an instant problem with even Brodie interviewing because he’s an agent w/inherent conflict of interest once he becomes GM. deGrom is the perfect example, no GM is going to act like an agent. They rep the organization, not the player. Which means, instantly, Jake will be lowballed, it has to be that way. That’s the conflict of interest, Brodie will use the pretty words, deGrom will say it’s cool maybe, but it’s not. It’s a problem. And if I was Jacob deGrom, I’d fire CAA, hire Boras, and say go screw as I wait for FA to come. But, that’s me. I’m a player advocate that will not root for the laundry just cause. Maybe if this team could sustain success I would, but they’ve had 8/10 losing seasons and the only thing to look forward is to watch the SP on the regular, esp, Jake.

    Should’ve went with Bloom. That’s it.

    • Chris F
      October 28, 2018 at 11:10 am

      Well said Jennifer…I agree completely.

      • Metsense
        October 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm

        Wow Jennifer, you didn’t mince words, and I like that. I also like your attitude and comment.

    • TJ
      October 28, 2018 at 4:00 pm

      So, I will play the devil’s advocate here. First, two disclaimers – I can’t stand the Wilpons, and my preference was Bloom. But, unlike some of the other comments here, I am going to give the Wilpons credit here and take the half-full view until proven otherwise.

      There are clearly risks, but there were risks with any hire for this spot. So, Brodie has no experience as GM or in an MLB organization. True But, the guy has an impressive resume. He played high level college baseball, received a scholarship, and graduated Stanford. He has been involved in the aseball business for two decades. He has built and run a successful organization. These are major positives.

      There is a good chance this hire, unlike a Melvin or Bloom hire, signals that the Mets will behave more like a big market team spending-wise. Maybe not, but that’s how it looks right now.

      The Mets have the ability to compete 2019-2021 based upon the offseason approach and then followed by the quality of the decisions. So, I don’t want to kill the Wilpons if they don’t want to blow it up, they just need to back up that desire with the appropriate actions and funding.

  4. IDRAFT
    October 28, 2018 at 11:47 am

    As one of the few to vote for BVW I will explain my thought process. In BVW I see a successful individual, in the prime of his career, looking for a new challenge. After eight years of a has been looking to cash more checks for himself and his old buddies J.P and Paul I find that intriguing and obviously this meant I had no use for Melvin or Littlefield.

    Bloom would have been interesting and I would have been fine with it given the candidates. I suspect CAA has as large an analytics division as any team in baseball. They are not a Mom and Pop operation. You throw in that BVW has already worked as front man with every GM in baseball and has relationships with them all day one and for me that gives him an edge.

    It might not work but not one candidate stood out as a sure thing, I like the aggressiveness of this move.

    Let’s go Brodie! Let’s Go Mets

    • Steve S.
      October 28, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      Yes, I’ve read that BVW wouldn’t take the job if the Wilpons didn’t agree to a big expansion of the Mets analytics staff. A good development.

  5. Mike Walczak
    October 28, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Ok, we got VW. He’s our new GM.

    I hope that he is a wheeler dealer and shakes up the roster. I would love to see the purge of Bruce, Frazier and Vargas.

    I have no issue if he trades Wheeler for a young position player, but he will have to sign a good free agent pitcher to replace him.

    The Yankees have young talent and they are starved for pitching. Wheeler to the Yankees for Andujar. Sign Patrick Corbin. Sign Eduardo Nunez from Boston as a super utility player. Sign Kimbrel and Kelly. (If he is a free agent ?) Ramos or Grandal will suffice. Bring up Alonso and give him a shot now. (The hell with keeping him down for business reasons)

    That makes a nice lineup and a rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard and Corbin is a solid 1,2,3. And, we didn’t break the bank for Machado.

    Hey, if they make these moves, maybe they still lose 85 games, but at least it will be fun. I want to feel excitement for this team again as a fan.

    • TexasGusCC
      October 28, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      Mike, Alonso only has to stay down for two weeks. He can wait.
      Nunez exercised his $5MM option, so he’s out.
      The Padres are the team to deal with. They have tons of prospects, more blue chippers than anyone, and have no pitching.

      How do you feel about signing Lance Lynn at a reduced market offer than last year?

  6. JImO
    October 28, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I like this move. I am so glad we went with either one of the younger candidates. Expansion of the analytics department sounds like its long overdue. This guy is Neil Armstrong’s son-in-law, by the way.

  7. Met fan 4ever
    October 28, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Can’t see Fred making this choice,must be Jeff. A passing of the torch? Might mean a return to the spending of the Minaya era. Don’t get too excited, most of the big free agent signings don’t work.

  8. MattyMets
    October 28, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    Feels like GM by committee with meddling ownership. While this motley crew sits making pros and cons lists in a conference room the Theo Epsteins and Brian Cashmans will swoop in and snatch the stars before CitiField can make a decision.

    Hopefully Brodie can at least help us lock up JDG and Thor.

    • TexasGusCC
      October 29, 2018 at 1:04 am

      Matt, you’re right that the Mets need to put their house in order first. Who are the keepers and who are the imposters? For years we had scrubs at certain positions. Granted, I’m not talking 8 all-stars, but 8 solid players would be great.

      One of the reasons that Swarzak was the only real reliever they signed last year, was they signed Bruce unnecessarily. I recall us talking about an outfield of Cespedes, Lagares with his revamped swing, and Nimmo for one month until Conforto came back. It was just one month! Too, the signing of Todd Frazier, while not as terrible, still shifted an immobile Asdrubal Cabrera back to the middle infield. Let’s say rather than Jay Bruce, they sign John Jay or a nice depth guy like Granny for a month of insurance, and they can’t sell us that got Bruce for first base because Flores was the backup and finding a first baseman is the easiest position to fill, so you don’t spend $40MM over 3 years to put an moderate player there. That money could have added another good reliever to the bullpen.

      Concerning my opening paragraph about identifying your core and what positions they play, the Mets look to glamorize their mediocre players and not look to upgrade them, such insulting their fans’ intelligence. Not all positions are created equal, so worrying more about your third baseman than your second baseman is a problem. Further, worrying more about your first baseman than your bullpen – when you want your starters to not go through a lineup a third time – is a problem. Now, if you can put an all-star like Paul Goldschmidt at 1B, that’s an upgrade. But the names they added weren’t going to be difference makers because they may have had one strength but they come with a huge weakness too. Frazier was a #7 hitter with a nice glove. Bruce was a #6 hitter with no glove. That costs $22MM and takes away from your bullpen?

  9. October 29, 2018 at 12:42 am

    All the concerns are noted, and valid.

    The big thing here is going to be “The First Things He Says”. This team needs direction, and BVW needs to know that direction Right Now. Load it up, or tear it down…Get Started!

    I’m hoping ownership has been swayed by some sort of sincere and informed Baseball Vision offered by their new GM.

    Why not be Hopeful?

    • TexasGusCC
      October 29, 2018 at 1:06 am

      Eraff, we are all hopeful of course, but our confidence is shaky – with many good reasons for such. LOL

    • October 29, 2018 at 8:11 am

      I think about your last sentence constantly.

      I don’t get the rush to be miserable, I really don’t. Last year at this time there was so much misery being tossed around and it was mostly about payroll. People would bring it up no matter what the topic was. You could say – I’m glad the Mets hired a pitching coach to be their manager since they have so much hope built up in their pitching. And people would respond – nothing matters as long as the cheap owners are going to cut payroll by $40 million. Lather, rinse, repeat X 10,000.

      And then payroll was virtually identical to the year before.

      Now it’s the Mets are going to hire Doug Melvin – how can they be so stupid? Or, I really want Bloom but I know they’re going to hire Melvin so the world sucks. And then they don’t hire Melvin.

      I get saying something negative once. That way you’re on the record and if anyone questions you – well, you can prove it wasn’t hindsight. But saying it over and over and over and over and over again – day after day after day – is a type of masochism whose appeal is just completely foreign to me.

      I used to think foot fetishes were weird. But that seems tame compared to this.

  10. October 29, 2018 at 4:33 am

    The Wilpons have nothing to lose. If the new GM fails they’ll say he needs time to learn the ropes. The fall back would be if the the three headed snake remains intact in the background. Thus the Coupons buy time and add another body to blame for their mess if things go awry. Bloom should of been the pick. As for analytics Alderson did request this past season to expand that department (a three person dept.) and was rejected by Jeffy. Once BVW leaves CAA I’m fairly certain the information stays there and not shared.

    • Mike Walczak
      October 29, 2018 at 7:26 am

      Let’s consider logic. Why would VW leave CAA, where I am sure he was making a truck full of money to be the GM of the Mets, with owners who meddle and don’t spend money? Plus the job may come with a three headed pet.

      Maybe it was a pipe dream of VM to be a GM. I would find it hard to believe that VW would take a job like this under the same rules that Alderson had.

      Why would the Coupons choose to hire an agent with no front office experience?

      I believe that VW provided a detailed specific plan down to the player level of how he will build a winner. The plan includes who goes, who stays, what extension offers will be made and who is target free agents are and who potential trade targets may be. All wrapped up with a bow as to how much money the Coupons will have to spend.

      VW got more control with no meddling and he got a higher budget number.

      I bet the first piece to go will be Bruce.

      That is a logical view as to how this went down.

      If this is what happened, then we should see some significant changes.

      • TexasGusCC
        October 29, 2018 at 10:42 am

        Mike, if you want to give us a logical explanation of how BVW’s wife reacted to the pay cut, I’m ready. LOL!

        • Name
          October 29, 2018 at 11:55 am

          At this point, one would think that he is set financially.

          Taking the Mets job gives him more power( running a sports franchise) and fame (let’s be honest, no one really knew who he was before this, and you have to be a moderate fan to know who Scott Boras is)

  11. October 29, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    Dream Job for BVW…???? On paper…let’s see what they do.

    I’m scratching my head at the “leftovers”…Omar,Ricco, and whichever of the Sandy Troika that’s left over….TC….—what do they Do???!!! Ricco is a functionary with Cap-ology, I’ll assume–then again, I’d expect BVW to know that up, down and sideways.

    I’m reserving all judgement until I hear the Presser and the Plan

    I am hopeful that they’ve hired “The Mets’ Way” for the next 10-20 years.

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