MLB: Mets make controversial general manager hire

Ben Mandell, Co-Sports

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On Saturday, Oct. 27, the Major League Baseball’s Players Association (MLBPA) spoke out against the New York Mets and their desire to hire popular agent Brodie Van Wagenen to fill their vacant general manager position. The next day, the Mets came out and made a statement that they were going to hire Van Wagenen.

Whether the timing was intentional or not, the Mets made it clear that they do not see the issue that the MLBPA does.

The MLBPA, and their chief Tony Clark, are essentially baseball players union representatives. Clark is here to make sure that the players still have their rights and fair working conditions. All professional sports have players associations, so baseball is no exception, but why is there an issue with the Mets hiring Brodie Van Wagenen?

Van Wagenen is now the former co-head of the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) since he accepted the Mets offer, but it also means he represented a lot of MLB players, including Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes and Robinson Cano. It is Van Wagenen’s knowledge of these players’ personal information that teams typically do not know about that causes controversy.

Super-agent Scott Boras explained that the concerns are justified in an interview with ESPN radio.

“When you’re fluid and you’re going from agency to management, the fact of the matter is, how does a player know that you won’t make that change any time?” Boras said. “Why would he tell you the most intimate things in the world, knowing that you’re going to be negotiating against him?”

Tony Clark elaborated on this idea and expressed similar concerns in his statement written by the New York Daily News on Saturday. He noted that players were calling nonstop with their concerns of the potential repercussions that the hiring of Van Wagenen could have.

“They understand the opportunities that exist for representatives to make the decisions that they are going to make,” Clark said. “To the extent that possibility exists, I would be confident in suggesting that the understanding and appreciation for confidential information remains so.”

The big concern, in terms of a player’s information being used against himself, is for deGrom, Van Wagenen’s former client and current member of the New York Mets and a player who will be in need of a new contract soon. To show an example of how this can negatively affect deGrom, let’s say the two parties are negotiating a new contract. If Van Wagenen knows personal information, he can use it against deGrom, violating player/agent trust.

Boras may not be well received by the public or teams, but he has been highly praised by his clients for his loyalty and the trust they feel with him. Van Wagenen has a majority of high profile clients, and during his press conference at Citi Field, the new general manager said that he discussed the move with deGrom and his other clients before taking the Mets GM job. He also said there was tremendous support and enthusiasm.

If what Van Wagenen says is true, and there has not been any public response from his clients to say otherwise, then there should not be any issue with his decision. The players safety is the biggest concern, but if the players affected by it directly are not concerned, then the major concerns should be taken care of. The only concerns could be for this to open the door for future agents to flip roles, which was mentioned by Tony Clark. The hope is that even if it does occur, the private information remains private.

Also, according to CBS Sports, Jeff Wilpon, Mets chief operating officer (COO) said, “There are provisions in Van Wagenen’s contract to deal with conflicts of interest. That could result in Van Wagenen recusing himself from certain negotiations, such as Jacob deGrom. But Van Wagenen would help provide direction.”

Van Wagenen has also come out via press conference to say he has divested from CAA and future contract commissions.

All this means is that he no longer will be benefitting from the players’ contracts and that he no longer is with the CAA. According to Forbes, Van Wagenen made $25 million in commision last year.

The specific numbers of Brodie Van Wagenen’s contract are not completely public, but it can be expected to be less than his commission made last season as an agent.

The Mets hiring Brodie Van Wagenen marks New York as just the second franchise to hire an agent as their general manager.

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