The Mets have done a lot of business in recent years with Brodie Van Wagenen, a prominent agent who has worked for Mets players such as Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Nimmo and Todd Frazier.
Now the Mets are negotiating with Van Wagenen in a different and unorthodox way: to have him fill their general manager vacancy. After a search that came down to two finalists, Van Wagenen has become the leading candidate, according to three people familiar with the negotiations who were not authorized to speak publicly because a deal had not been finalized.
Because Van Wagenen, 44, has no experience as a team executive, the other finalist, Chaim Bloom, 35, the senior vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, had seemed like a safer bet. Van Wagenen would also have to overcome concerns about conflicts of interest, because of the delicate information players tend to share with their agents — including their lowest expectations on salary in a negotiation.
“I would be confident in suggesting that the understanding and appreciation of confidential information remain as such,” said Tony Clark, the executive director of the players union.
The Mets were not expected to introduce their new general manager until at least next week, after the end of the World Series, which the Boston Red Sox are leading over the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2-1.
Whoever inherits the Mets’ top baseball job will have much work to do. After reaching the World Series in 2015 and going to the playoffs again in 2016, the team has had two straight losing seasons and changed managers. Questions will also persist about how much power a new general manager will have given the reputation of the owners, the Wilpon family, for being heavily involved in the team’s operations.
Van Wagenen, who played baseball at Stanford University, has brokered nine-figure contracts for stars such as Ryan Zimmerman, Robinson Cano and Cespedes. This year, Forbes ranked Van Wagenen the 25th most powerful agent in sports. Through his clients, he is familiar with the Mets’ inner workings.
Van Wagenen would replace Sandy Alderson, who in June stepped down after seven-plus years because of a recurrence of cancer. In the interim, the Mets were led by three executives: the assistant general manager John Ricco, and the special assistants J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya.
Agents have shifted into front offices across baseball and other sports with mixed results. Dave Stewart, a former pitcher, left his agency to become the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 but lasted only two seasons, both of them losing.
Rick Hahn and Dennis Gilbert both abandoned careers as agents to become executives with the Chicago White Sox; Hahn is now the general manager, and Gilbert a special assistant.
In the N.B.A., Bob Myers parlayed his agent experience into a chance to build the Golden State Warriors into a championship team. Rob Pelinka, another former agent, took over the Los Angeles Lakers last year and helped lure the superstar LeBron James to the team this season.
The Mets invited three candidates — Bloom, Van Wagenen and Doug Melvin, a former general manager for the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers — for second interviews this week. Because dealing with the news media is part of a general manager’s responsibilities, the Mets asked each to speak with reporters on a conference call.
Melvin, a senior adviser for the Brewers, followed through, but because of their current roles, Van Wagenen and Bloom chose instead to release statements through the Mets.
“In my role as an agent, my solution is to create opportunities for players to be successful both on and off the field,” Van Wagenen said in his statement. “By creating partnerships between players and teams, the interests of all parties can be aligned.”
He added, referring to the Wilpons: “As Jeff and Fred continue their search for a new head of baseball operations, the players, fans and entire organization will be motivated to have a leader with the skills and commitment to win. If the Wilpons believe I am that person, we will have that conversation.”
Van Wagenen would have to leave his agency — he was one of the heads of baseball for the powerful Creative Artists Agency — in order to become a team executive, but it could get thorny with his former clients on the Mets.
For example, deGrom, who will be a free agent after the 2020 season, has said on many occasions that he would be open to a contract extension to remain with the Mets. Van Wagenen and the Mets set aside discussions after initial talks last winter. In July, Van Wagenen criticized the Mets for “inertia” and suggested that deGrom should be traded if the team did not want to give him an extension.
But if Van Wagenen is on the other side, deGrom could have reason to wonder how much the Mets would know about his negotiating position.
Scott Boras, another powerful agent, said he had concerns about the protection of insider information.
“The reality of it is once you know, you know,” Boras said. “If you’re going to serve the interests of your employer, how can you not serve that dynamic by not disclosing to him all of that information? You’re not under a legal duty to not disclose it, which agents aren’t.”