“He’s doing his job well if he’s selling me a bad player and I paid a lot of money,” Rizzo said. “The only way I would be upset with him is if he lied to me about something, and he never did.”
In fact, his experience as an agent could even prove to be an asset. Van Wagenen, who was one of the heads of baseball for the powerful Creative Artists Agency before joining the Mets, said he hoped that the credibility he built with general managers over the years will carry over into his new role.
“I’m not saying I always agreed with him, but it’ll be up to him to show that he’s honest and sincere, and I think he will,” said Dombrowski, who also worked often with Van Wagenen when he was an agent.
The most outspoken critic of hiring an agent as a general manager has been Scott Boras, a prominent agent. Boras is, of course, looking out for his own business, but he has raised questions about intimate information players share with their agents that now could fall into the hands of a front office. The players’ union voiced similar concerns when Van Wagenen was hired.
Asked if he would refrain from negotiating with the Mets, Boras said, “My job is to be a fiduciary for my clients and I will negotiate with anyone at anytime if my clients so desire me to do so. I do not let my personal philosophies interfere with any of that.”
Privately, some agents have shared reservations about other closely held information, like salary arbitration figures, that could spread back to Van Wagenen’s former agency, as well as concerns about favoritism involving past clients. The agents requested anonymity to express concerns that could affect future negotiations.
Van Wagenen has taken steps to address some of those issues and to stay in line with baseball’s rules. He divested from his former agency, and the Mets said that conflict of interest provisions were placed in his contract and that he would recuse himself from directly negotiating with former clients, which include the Mets’ star pitcher Jacob deGrom, for whom Van Wagenen publicly advocated a contract extension earlier this year.