Light on specifics regarding how to fix the Mets, new GM Brodie Van Wagenen on Tuesday hinted at a long-term contract extension for Jacob deGrom in line with his players-first philosophy that stems from his previous career as an agent when he represented deGrom among many others.
Noting that his now-former clients believe “I may be able to bring some fresh perspective to the team side,” Van Wagenen said Fred and Jeff Wilpon agreed with that philosophy:The guys on the field are the most important thing the Mets, or any team, have going for them.
“I believe players should be celebrated,” Van Wagenen said at his introductory news conference. “I believe they should be a focal point of any good organization. Make no mistake, I intend for players to be the priority of this franchise going forward.
“Throughout my conversation with the Wilpons, our communication was consistent: Provide our players with the support and resources they need to succeed. When they do, recognize their performances and reward their performances.”
The best way — and perhaps the only meaningful way — to “reward their performances” is with money. If you have a fan-favorite stud who for years was underpaid by default, given baseball’s salary structure, paving over any existing hard feelings with a big check is a good way to put him and others in a good mood.
And when employees see that they are valued, the net gain could be greater than merely keeping your best players, Van Wagenen contends.
“This mindset creates a positive culture and positive work environment,” Van Wagenen said. “As is true in all organizations, good culture yields the best results and increases the probability for success. This is particularly true in baseball.”
Still-theoretical deGrom contract talks are brimming with complications. In July, as deGrom’s agent, Van Wagenen said the Mets should sign the righthander to an extension or look to trade him. Since that point, an extension has only gotten more expensive, with deGrom leading the majors with a 1.70 ERA during his likely NL Cy Young Award season.
Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer, said Van Wagenen will recuse himself from negotiations with players he used to represent, including deGrom. That means someone other than the team’s top baseball executive will oversee those talks, though Wilpon said Van Wagenen “can give us direction.” (Van Wagenen no longer has a financial relationship with the Creative Artists Agency, the baseball division of which he co-headed and which also represents the Mets' Noah Syndergaard, Brandon Nimmo, Todd Frazier and others.)
Van Wagenen made one thing clear: He wants to keep deGrom. And he probably did the Mets no favors as far as future contract talks or arbitration hearings go when he said, “Jacob deGrom clearly has established himself as the best pitcher in baseball.”
“Hopefully in a couple of weeks he’ll be rewarded with that trophy,” Van Wagenen said, referencing the Cy Young announcement on Nov. 14. “You want to try to identify the best players and keep them for as long as possible. 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.”