Later today, the Mets will officially introduce Brodie Van Wagenen as their new general manager in a press conference at Citi Field. Unlike Sandy Alderson and Omar Minaya, this will be Van Wagenen’s first job in front office. Let’s take some time to get introduced to Brodie.
A native of Southern California, Van Wagenen got his undergraduate degree at Stanford University in communications in 1996. He attended Stanford on a full baseball scholarship and started in right field for Stanford for two years.
He began his career in sports as an intern for the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era. He then worked at Athlete Direct/Broadband Sports, which created websites for famous athletes. Although that company failed in 2001, it was his first foray into negotiating with athletes and he got hired by IMG, working under prominent agent Casey Close, also once a candidate for the Mets’ GM position.
When Close left IMG in 2006 when Creative Artists Agency delved into sports, Van Wagenen went to CAA too. He was, presumably until today, co-head of CAA Sports’ Baseball division and one of the more prominent agents in the game. In 2012, he was named on the Sports Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” list and Forbes lists him as the 25th most powerful agent in sports. He didn’t earn those accolades by accident. He has negotiated some of the most notable contracts in the sport, including Ryan Zimmerman’s $100 million deal and Robinson Cano’s monster 10 year, $260 million contract. Of course, the contract Mets fans are most familiar with that Van Wagenen negotiated is Yoneis Cespedes’ current contract—4 years, $110 million through 2020. Notably, during the first round of negotiations with Cespedes in 2016, Van Wagenen “presented the Mets with an advanced metric they developed that tried to measure how much Cespedes was worth to the team in terms of generating ticket, media, merchandise and sponsorship revenue.”
While Van Wagenen lacks front office experience, his career of building relationships with players and negotiating contracts has left him with a wealth of baseball knowledge and a network that is well respected in the game. Described as both analytically-minded, but also loyal and authentic, ESPN’s Jim Bowden hailed him as the “best in the business” when it comes to creativity and presentation skills.
A year ago, Van Wagenen did not mince his words when he outright accused MLB’s ownership of collusion and called for a boycott if the free agent market did not pick up. Then mid-season this year, he had some words for the Mets on behalf of one of his other clients, Jacob deGrom, calling for the team to either extend their ace or trade him. Now, he will find himself working for Mets ownership, which makes for quite the interesting dynamic.
Of course, Van Wagenen not only represents Cespedes and deGrom, but several other Mets as well and will have to divest from CAA in order to assume his new position. However, while he may be able to divorce himself from the monetary interests of his clients, he cannot unlearn private details, such as medical records, he is privy to regarding the players, which still presents an interesting potential source of conflict. An agent becoming a front office executive is not without precedent; Dave Stewart served as the Diamondbacks’ GM for two years after a career as an agent and notable NBA agents have transitioned to front office roles. However, concerns remain about the Mets’ outside the box hire—both among players and other agents.
“I won’t tell you how many calls or how many texts I have gotten [from players],” said Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Meanwhile, Scott Boras—perhaps the highest profile agent in the game—said that he has turned down every opportunity to interview for a front office position due to “unavoidable” conflicts of interest. It remains unclear whether these trepidations could affect Van Wagenen’s ability to negotiate deals. However, it’s hard to argue that the Mets aren’t taking on a certain amount of risk with this hire. Whether that risk will pay off remains to be seen.