Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said he hasn’t spoken to incoming billionaire owner Steve Cohen since last winter, but that he’s not concerned that the shift in management might cost him his job.
The Mets announced the sale to the hedge-fund manager last week, but Cohen has long been in talks with Sterling Partners, and came close to acquiring the team in November. He and Van Wagenen spoke in the winter, but those conversations were focused more on ideas and philosophies rather than tangible changes, Van Wagenen said in a news conference Friday. The sale hasn’t changed day-to-day operations, he added, painting the picture of a GM who is in constant talks with lame-duck owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon but has been absent from conversations with the new boss. (Cohen will own 95% of the team, and the Wilpons will maintain a 5% stake.)
Asked if Cohen has given him any assurances about his job, Van Wagenen said he hadn’t "had those conversations with him."
"My daily operations remain exactly the same," he said. "My communication with Jeff and Fred is consistent the way it's always been. Our relationship has been as close as ever and I haven't had any new discussions with Steve since last winter. But in terms of my own job security, I've said it many times. I don't think about that. I don't give it any thought because my task is to win today."
Van Wagenen then quoted Nelson Mandela, saying he never loses, he either wins or learns.
"And I think that's the approach that we want to take to our team," he said. "We want to take it today and we're either going to win the game tonight or we're going to learn something that's going to give us a chance to win tomorrow."
Since he hasn’t spoken with Cohen, the two haven’t begun to discuss how to approach what may turn out to be one of the most challenging offseasons in history. The shortened season will make player evaluation a challenge, Van Wagenen said, and the free-agent market will no doubt be difficult to navigate. There aren't even any assurances about which of the rule and roster changes might stick around.
"Going into (the offseason), there are still a few I's to dot and T's to cross before (the sale) becomes official," Van Wagenen said. The "collaboration is still among the senior leaders in my department and then communication with Jeff and Fred and then from there we'll sort of continue to go forward. But at this point, right now, our transactions are focused on today, tonight and tomorrow to try and get us through this regular season."
The GM added that while he values his relationship with the Wilpons, he does believe Cohen presents an opportunity for the organization. Cohen has historically invested in the "infrastructure of his organizations," Van Wagenen said. Asked if he believed that Cohen’s finance background would lead him to expand the organization’s analytics team, Van Wagenen said those conversations were premature.
"We haven’t talked about plans for expansion or particular investments in certain areas," he said. "We haven’t talked since the announcement was made last week, and the conversations going back to the winter were much more top-line rather than plans for specific investments if and when he were able to acquire the team."
But with all the changes that will undoubtedly come next year, Van Wagenen did seem to indicate there was one thing he hoped would stay the same. Manager Luis Rojas, he said, has exceeded his expectations, even as the Mets entered Friday four games under .500.
"I’ve gained even more respect and admiration for Luis through these 50 games and through summer camp than what I had in him previously with his career here with the Mets and also when we hired him last winter," Van Wagenen said. "His baseball IQ has always been strong. His communication skills have been applied to helping to get the best out of all of these players ... I’ve been very impressed with him and I can only have positive things to say about his future and I think he’s going to continue to be a great manager."
Sign up for Newsday’s Mets Messages for updates directly to your phone via text, free with a Newsday digital subscription. Learn more at newsday.com/metstext.