When Brodie Van Wagenen was hired away from being the co-head of CAA’s sports agency to become the new Mets general manager, some eyebrows were raised about whether conflict of interest could come into play. It was fairly interesting that Van Wagenen would take a job where he previously had a fiduciary relationship with so many of the players already on the roster.
At the time of his hire, the Mets had 11 CAA clients in the organization: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Robert Gsellman, Todd Frazier, Brandon Nimmo, Jason Vargas, Tim Tebow, Phil Evans, Justin Dunn, and Yoenis Cespedes, who is represented by Roc Nation Sports, which was formerly a subset of CAA.
So far this offseason, Van Wagenen has dealt Dunn and waived Evans, but has added Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie, two more of his former clients (Cano with Roc Nation, Lowrie with CAA). The rookie GM was also in a high-profile pursuit of J.T. Realmuto, another former client of his, before pivoting to Wilson Ramos because of the Marlins’ high asking price. On top of that, the Mets were at one point connected to Adam Jones, another CAA client currently on the free agent market. Van Wagenen also made headlines with his interest in dealing Syndergaard earlier this offseason, but all momentum there seems to have (thankfully) faded.
After all of that, Van Wagenen still rosters 11 of his former clients, including five of the 21 notable All-Stars listed on CAA’s website. Jones and Realmuto are both also on that list as well, which means Van Wagenen could have had 1/3rd of the players promoted by CAA on his roster. Plus, none of that even takes Tebow into account, who has, arguably, more marquee value than any other player CAA represents.
But now seems like a good time to pump the breaks a little bit and remind everyone that, because CAA is one of the sport’s largest agencies, it would have been nearly impossible for Van Wagenen to be an effective general manager for any team without dealing with several of his former clients. The only person actually in the sport who has been outwardly vocal against Van Wagenen’s hire is Scott Boras, who is not only CAA’s biggest competition, but has never had a positive relationship with the Mets as it is. Plus, Van Wagenen has addressed these concerns himself and has severed all ties with CAA.
That being said, it is at least interesting how intent he was on going after Cano and Realmuto over other options, and the sheer volume of CAA or Roc Nation clients still on the team. None of us can say for sure what the reason for that is, if there even is one; this could all be a complete coincidence. That there’s actually anything illegal going on here is a long shot, but it could be possible that Van Wagenen is at least using his personal relationship with players in order to attract them to the Mets more, which is actually not a bad strategy given that the Mets probably lack the ability to attract free agents in many other ways. He could also be using that relationship to better relate to the players and improve team morale—which is the opposite to how Sandy Alderson operated—as well as enticing deGrom, and potentially others, into signing an extension.
It’s also fair to speculate that Van Wagenen is more familiar with these players than others that he did not represent, so he feels he knows more about their strengths and weaknesses, what they prefer, and the best ways to utilize them. That is also not a bad strategy given the Mets’ lack of resources in both their scouting an analytical departments relative to the rest of the league, though Van Wagenen is at least trying to boost the analytical side with some recent hires.
At the same time, Van Wagenen could also be viewing his former clients too kindly, which could be detrimental to his performance as general manager. It was his job, after all, to highlight each of his client’s positives and promote them to teams, while completely ignoring the negatives. Could this lead to him now overlooking the negatives in in his former clients more as a GM? For example, did he properly consider Cano’s age before acquiring him? Was Realmuto actually worth whatever he was offering? How superior was Lowrie to other options? This all works both ways, and it could potentially lead to some oversight with some players’ weaknesses, or ill-advised signings and trades.
Whatever the reason may be, Van Wagenen seems very comfortable managing and dealing with his former clients. It could be a mere coincidence, but it’s possible that there is something to it, which could play huge a role in who Van Wagenen goes after as GM. It’s a fascinating dynamic to consider.