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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen knows how to work a room

Former agent is in comfort zone when communicating directly with free agents and learning about their needs.

Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen stands on

Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen stands on the field after a press conference at Citi Field on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

LAS VEGAS — In his first winter meetings as general manager, after attending many as an agent, Brodie Van Wagenen learned one thing almost immediately upon arriving at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino: Team executives’ suites have much better views than those the agents stay in.

And as he and much of the rest of his front office have stayed cooped up in those rooms for long stretches of the day, engaging in all sorts of trade and free-agent possibilities but not making any actual moves through Wednesday, Van Wagenen has found that his background as an agent lends itself to his new job.

Van Wagenen wants to be the kind of GM he liked working with as an agent. That means communicating directly with free agents, being transparent about playing-time opportunity with players and valuing the player perspective (a desire fulfilled by including David Wright as a sounding board).

“It’s a deeper dive when I can talk to the players directly, and so I’ve been doing that over the last several weeks,” Van Wagenen said. “From the player (agent) background that I have, I want to be able to have direct conversations, help the players understand what our opportunity is, what our future is and how they fit into it, but also be able to hear from them what their goals are as players and what they think they can add to their team.”

Take the Mets’ outfield situation as an example. As Van Wagenen considers A.J. Pollock and Adam Jones (or their representatives) — free agents who have been in touch with the Mets — it’s important to acknowledge the other bodies the Mets have there, including Juan Lagares (frequently injured but important when healthy) and Yoenis Cespedes (expected back midseason).

“The more active a player can be, the better they can feel about their solution going forward,” Van Wagenen said. “I’ve always felt players need to have an active role in their lives because they’re the ones that are going to have to make the decisions on where they go.”

It’s tougher on the trade front. Van Wagenen didn’t have prior experience in that realm, team-to-team talks (nevermind those that manifest themselves in a blockbuster, such as the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz deal).

The Mets like Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who would be a significant upgrade behind the plate, and as that possibility continues to exist, Van Wagenen leans on those around him.

That’s where Van Wagenen surrounding himself with wizened industry lifers comes in handy. Among those playing a role in the Mets’ decision-making, there are three former GMs (Omar Minaya, Allard Baird, Ruben Amaro Jr.) and a longtime assistant GM (John Ricco).

Van Wagenen also mentioned analytically focused assistant GM Adam Guttridge, the most junior member of that inner circle but nonetheless a valuable voice.

“We try to build our management team with veterans who have been through this industry for much longer than I have,” Van Wagenen said.

Eventually, that group effort will yield a new player for the Mets. It just might not be while Van Wagenen works in that room with a view.

“We’re not viewing the winter meetings as a scoreboard of how many transactions we complete,” Van Wagenen said. “We’re going to view it in terms of how productive the conversations were and what we can do in the days and weeks ahead.”

Notes & quotes: The Mets hired veteran minor-league manager Kevin Boles to manage Double-A Binghamton. Boles had worked in the Red Sox’s system since 2008, working closely with Allard Baird and Jared Banner, former Red Sox executives hired by Van Wagenen to run Mets player development. … Van Wagenen said he considers Lagares, who missed most of 2018 due to injury but is playing in the Dominican Winter League, the Mets’ centerfielder pending further moves. “We’re counting on him heavily, especially if we’re going to make decisions about impact bats in other areas, then we really need to have good defense in the outfield,” Van Wagenen said. … The Mets have the room — four open spots on the 40-man roster — to participate in the Rule 5 draft, which is noon ET Thursday.

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