LOS ANGELES — Brodie Van Wagenen, among the most prominent agents in baseball and whose clients include Jacob deGrom, has emerged as the favorite to become the Mets’ next general manager, a source close to the situation said Friday.
But Chaim Bloom, the Rays' senior vice president of baseball operations, remains in contention and there has not been a final decision, the source said.
Because MLB holds a strong dislike for teams making news during the World Series, which will be played at least through Saturday, there isn’t expected to be any finality until next week, when the Red Sox and Dodgers finish.
At Dodger Stadium before Game 3, where Van Wagenen becoming the Mets’ baseball-operations boss was discussed by industry insiders as a fait accompli, the not-done-yet move drew mixed reactions.
Choosing an agent to be GM is rare, but not unprecedented. In the NBA in recent years, the Warriors and Lakers hired former agents Bob Myers and Rob Pelinka, respectively.
In 2014, the Diamondbacks and chief baseball officer Tony La Russa hired Dave Stewart as GM. La Russa and Stewart had a relationship spanning decades, and Stewart had done a little of everything in baseball: pitcher, pitching coach, front-office executive and agent. The La Russa-Stewart regime lasted two seasons.
Van Wagenen, 44, a former player at Stanford, has a different resume. A career agent, Van Wagenen serves now as the co-head of CAA’s baseball division, which represents deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, Todd Frazier and others. Multiple sources indicated CAA expected Van Wagenen to leave and were prepared for him to do so, and that the company didn’t anticipate problems retaining his clients.
Speaking generally about hiring an agent as GM, La Russa said anyone with a strong baseball background — like Van Wagenen’s — could do well as long as he appropriately balances scouting and analytics.
“If you favor one too much over the other, you’re not going to be good enough,” said La Russa, now a high-ranking executive for the Red Sox. “The thing that I would wonder about is, does he understand how to run a player-development system? That takes time and experience. And the value of the coaches in the major leagues.
“I have a special respect for the Mets, and they had some really good candidates. If they choose [Van Wagenen], I have to believe they looked at all [aspects of it] and he measures up.”
As another agent — a competitor to Van Wagenen — put it: “Hiring an agent in general is brilliant because they have somewhat the same skill set as a GM. Budgets, needs, how to fill them, how to sell free agents to come play there, PR, etc.”
A move to a front office would put Van Wagenen in an ethical gray area. As an agent, he would have been privy to potentially sensitive information regarding the company’s clients. In his likely new role, he would be on the other side of the table, including potentially negotiating a contract extension with deGrom.
Scott Boras, baseball’s most prominent agent and a World Series attendee, said changing sides would be against his personal ethical code for that reason.
“I represent your son, if I make a pledge to you, I want that young man to tell me everything because I need to it to represent him well,” Boras said.
And once you know that information, Boras said, you’ll always know it. You can’t uncrack the egg.
“Do you want me to take all of that information to an ownership [group] and use it against him?” Boras said. “Because the reality of it is, once you know, you know. It’s about delivery. If you’re going to serve the interest of your employer, how can you not serve that dynamic by disclosing to him all information? If you’re not under a legal duty to not disclose it — agents aren’t. Not when they go to work for a team. They’re now working for their employer.”
On Thursday, a day after principal owner Fred Wilpon and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon completed second interviews with the finalists, the Mets informed former Brewers/Rangers GM Doug Melvin that he was no longer in the running.
Sandy Alderson, who is still listed as GM on the Mets’ website, stepped away (but did not officially step down) from the team because of cancer four months ago Friday.
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