CARLSBAD, Calif. — Scott Boras, baseball’s most prominent agent, and Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who until last week was in that top tier with Boras, met Wednesday afternoon. For the first time.
Competitors for the past decade and a half — and the heads of rival brand-name agencies for much of that time — Van Wagenen and Boras say they had never actually had a conversation until arranging a meeting during the GM meetings.
Consider it a part of Van Wagenen’s ongoing adjustment from player rep to team executive and the weird, new dynamics that come with switching sides. In this case, that means needing to develop a working professional relationship with a onetime rival.
“Agents cross paths,” Van Wagenen said with a smile. “We don’t always talk to each other. The agent world is really competitive, and so we had not had any real interaction in the past. I did get a chance to meet with him out here. We had a productive discussion about the Mets, about what we’re looking to do and some of the players that he has in the stable, including Michael Conforto [the Mets’ only major-league Boras client].”
“We introduced ourselves to each other. We have now spoken. We have now met.”
Hours prior, Boras took not so subtle shots at Van Wagenen, highlighting conflict-of-interest issues and reiterating the point he made before the Mets made the hire official: Boras’ personal philosophy and ethics would keep him from ever making such a move.
Those were the latest hints of bad blood between the two. Their client overlap includes former Yankee Robinson Cano, a Boras guy until the cusp of his free agency in 2013, when he decided to go with Van Wagenen and CAA. (Cano ended up with a 10-year, $240-million contract with the Mariners.)
Boras stressed, however, that Van Wagenen’s status as Mets GM would not interfere with the team's trying to sign his players, saying: “I will negotiate with anyone at any time if my client so desires me to do so. I do not let my personal philosophies in any way interfere with any of that.” Among Boras’ free-agent clients this offseason: outfielder Bryce Harper, reliever Zach Britton and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez.
“I have never talked to Brodie Van Wagenen in my life,” Boras said, minutes before meeting Van Wagenen. “I don’t make it a practice to talk to agents because of past issues. I literally say hi and goodbye, but I’ve never had a conversation.
“I will talk to Fred [Wilpon] or Jeff [Wilpon] or John [Ricco] or Omar [Minaya] or whoever they assign to talk to me.”
Said Van Wagenen: “I don’t have issue with his opinions at all. There are a couple of things I’ve always respected about Scott: one, his work ethic, and two, his preparation. If you work hard and you’re prepared, you’re entitled to your opinion.”
The Van Wagenen-Boras tête-à-tête was just one in a long series of chats between Mets people and other teams and agents this week, with the GM meetings serving as a catalyst of sorts for the transactionally busier winter weeks to come.
Van Wagenen said relationships from his previous career have given him a foundation in his new one.
“Some of the club officials that I’ve done a fair amount of business with in the past, those conversations have been warm and there’s been some humor and laughter with the role reversal, but the rapport I think is maintained,” Van Wagenen said. “So far with the agent meetings, they’ve been professional, but they’ve also been I think transparent, both sides understanding the needs of each other.”
Notes & quotes: Jeff McNeil is “penciled in” as the Mets’ starting second baseman, Van Wagenen said. McNeil, 26, tore up Double A, Triple A and the majors in 2018, including posting a .329/.381/.471 slash line in 63 big-league games … Van Wagenen acknowledged that the Mets are looking to add multiple pitchers to their thin bullpen. … Former Padres/Cubs/Mariners/Nationals/Reds manager Jim Riggleman told MLB.com that he will interview for the Mets’ bench-coach job next week. Van Wagenen said the Mets are prioritizing that opening, then will get to hitting coach/bullpen coach.