SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A year later, Brodie Van Wagenen is willing to admit he was wrong.
He was so sure, upon his hiring as Mets general manager last fall, that he was fully aware of his blind spots, that he knew what he didn’t know. That would allow him to surround himself with carefully selected front-office lieutenants with appropriate strengths and expertise, which would ease his transition as he left his career as an agent to work for a team.
With the benefit of hindsight — and the experience of doing the job for a full baseball cycle— Van Wagenen realizes that wasn’t the reality.
“Last year I came into it thinking I knew what I didn’t know,” he said Wednesday at the GM meetings. “This year I’ve learned that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
“Having a good team around me, having some of the senior staff that we have helped overcome some of the road bumps and some of the blind spots. Understanding the marginal difference between winning and losing every day is probably the biggest eye-opening experience, because the level of detail to which I’ve tracked the game this year versus in my previous job is significant.”
At the GM meetings last year, Van Wagenen was brand new to the job, sitting on the opposite side of the table for the first time — trying to negotiate with agents who had been his competitors, trying to trade with his fellow GMs instead of getting them to sign his players.
If Van Wagenen is any more comfortable now — or was at all uncomfortable when he started — he fooled his peers.
“He’s the same guy as he was last year,” said Yankees GM Brian Cashman. “No hidden-ball tricks.
“His personality and actions are the same in this capacity as he was as an agent. He’s easy to engage, easy to share information with. We’re not in as easy a position to do deals because Yankees-Mets and stuff, but that doesn’t preclude us from having several conversations.”
Cashman and Padres GM A.J. Preller — whose team is known to covet Noah Syndergaard and engaged the Mets on trade talks for the pitcher repeatedly in the past year — both noted Van Wagenen’s meticulous preparedness.
For Cashman, that includes everything down to “speeches at his press conferences that are hand-written out.” For Preller, Van Wagenen’s knowledge of San Diego’s farm system was striking.
“Honestly, from minute one last year, he was a guy you could tell was creative and open-minded,” said Preller, a Huntington Station native. “You didn’t get the sense that he was crawling into this job. He was pretty prepared. You could tell he knew our system and our players and he was straightforward when we had conversations with them.”
Notes & quotes: Van Wagenen reiterated a point he made last month: He fully plans to keep Syndergaard and Edwin Diaz (who were the subjects of trade rumors in July). “We've had far fewer questions about [Syndergaard] this year than we did at the trade deadline or even last year,” Van Wagenen said. “I think that we had the opportunity to understand what teams thought of all of our players at the trade deadline.”…The Mets are open to signing players tagged with declined qualifying offers — and thus cost an extra draft pick to sign — according to Van Wagenen…The Mets still expect Tim Tebow back in spring training for a fourth season of professional baseball, Van Wagenen said. Tebow, 32, had a .163/.240/.255 slash line in Triple-A and missed the last six weeks of the season because of a cut on his hand. Tebow invited Van Wagenen, his former agent, to his looming wedding, but Van Wagenen isn’t sure if he will attend because of potential scheduling conflicts.
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