Reese Kaplan -- Did Jeff See in Brodie the Man He Wants to Be?


In an online discussion elsewhere, a longtime friend, John, made a very astute observation and even suggested that it formed the basis of a column for me.  I have to agree.  Thanks, mi amigo…

Anyway, the subject that led up to John’s suggestion was Brodie Van Wagenen and how he fared vs. previous general managers.  As conversations take twists and turns, that led us down the rabbit hole of wondering aloud how exactly did BVW land this gig with no experience on his resume on this side of the desk when it came to building winning ball clubs. 

So here is where John threw his oratorical curveball (assuming it’s fair to call written words oratory).  He posited that the reason Jeff Wilpon gave Brodie the job is that his golfing buddy represents everything Jeffy is not – he’s a handsome, self-made success who is confident, bold, brash and willing to take risks.  He further suggested that Sandy Alderson did not have the same freedom to act that BVW apparently has been granted by his putting green cohort. 

Wow, there’s an interesting theory there.  Let’s take them one at a time.  Yes, Brodie Van Wagenen is indeed GQ Magazine handsome and nattily attired.  Jeff Wilpon has a kind of opossum-face look going for him. 

Brodie built his business by wooing both clients and general managers to believe not only in his vision but also in his price.  He became a multi-millionaire not by birthright but through creativity and hard work.  Jeff, by contrast, didn’t finish college and arguably is only employed due to Daddy’s largesse. 

Whether you agree or disagree with the moves Brodie made during his rookie season in the big chair in the front office, no one can dispute he was indeed bold and brash.  Some criticized him for targeting his former clients to be paid huge sums of Wilpon money in BVW’s attempt to remake the team from also-ran into contender.  Some felt he was mortgaging the future in an ill-fated attempt to win now. 

By contrast, Sandy Alderson often operated as if the draft and the scrap heap were the primary means at his disposal to try to extricate the Mets from the basement, eschewing trades and avoiding the top tier free agent market entirely.  He also was stubbornly married to what had worked in in the past, often bidding against himself for players like Yoenis Cespedes when no one was clamoring for his services and then used this approach as an excuse to avoid spending on anything else.

BVW viewed the farm system as chips to trade to try to strengthen the team now.  All of the peddled players were from the Alderson regime.  Other clubs felt they had value, so you have to tip your cap to the former GM for setting up the new one for his relatively successful first year. 

Finally we get to the issue of freedom of movement.  Think what Brodie Van Wagenen did in his first season in charge.  He unloaded a few contracts that were not considered working for the Mets, including Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak.  He got Seattle to pay down Robinson Cano’s contract as well and that enabled him to land the reigning Fireman of the Year in Edwin Diaz, a close to minimum wage closer with years of team control left.

Now you can’t fault BVW for what Diaz did on the field.  On paper that looked like a rock-solid acquisition.  If you want to quibble about that deal, pick on the next four years of Cano’s presence which is a high price to pay for the twilight of someone’s career.  Then when he got off to a horrendous first half with time spend on the IL multiple times, the whispers turned into screams that it was a bad deal.  Of course, it didn’t help that Jared Kelenic started off like a house afire when both of the former Mariners were pooping the bed.

Somewhat lost in the things that didn’t work was the revamping of the front office, the new emphasis on performance metrics and the identification of undervalued assets worth acquiring.  You need look no further than JD Davis to see why he traded three prospects to obtain him. 

It seemed at times that at times Sandy Alderson stubbornness in adhering to his long-term strategy of building from within was his downfall.  I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions with incredulity the year of 2016 into 2017 when the Mets chose not to add a single major league player to the team, instead sitting on their pennant-losing laurels that all would continue to produce and evolve.  It didn’t. 

So what do you think was Jeff Wilpon’s motivation for hiring Brodie Van Wagenen?  Was it a kind of nepotism, bringing a family friend into the front office?  Was he really the best option available?  Or was it Fred finally acquiesce to the influence of the Billy Carter of his family as a means of showing us he’s indeed stepping further into the background and letting Jeffy take a more prominent role?   


Let's take a moment to salute the modern-day Anthony Young who was working on a multi-season 0-14 record, Paul Sewald, who last night FINALLY got his first major league win.  That's 1-14 for your big league career, Paul...and probably winning it in the bottom of the 11th after Brandon Nimmo's walk-off base on balls drove in the winning run made it even sweeter.


Tom Brennan said...

In fairness to BVW, if Diaz hadn’t done much worse than hoped...Familia too...and J Wilson and Avilan hadn’t each missed nearly half the season, the Mets would have easily secured the Wild Card. The Mets should have added at least one more pen arm last off season, to fail-proof the pen.

The Mets’ hitters and starting pitching were 95 win caliber.

Second half, Cano .300 with .575 slug %. Maybe he will delay his twilight by a year or two.

John From Albany said...

Great article. Especially love the point on Sewald.

I think Jeff and Fred can be talked into things by smooth talkers which would explain Brodie, Mickey Callaway and Bernie Madoff. But Art Howe lit up a room?
The fact that Brodie has used his skill to build up the analytical staff will help him stay and may make this whole thing work.

Tom Brennan said...

I saw Sewald highlights last night. His two K pitches, rising, high inside fastballs, were very effective. More of that and he would not be 1-14 as a Met.

Mets need for 2020 to not mess up the starting rotation and strengthen pen depth. Then, Brodie can think, but not say, “come get us”

Tom Brennan said...

Saw that Sewald’s 0-14 career start was a major league record.

Don Smith and Gsellman may be back this week. With Nimmo here, little room for Smith to play. He is 5th outfielder, second first baseman.

John From Albany said...

Tom, plan on posting about this more in the next day or so but what makes more sense for a bench piece, a lefty hitting backup first baseman that plays a poor leftfield (aka Dom Smith) or a lefty hitting first baseman that can also catch and throw out 30% of would be base stealers (aka Patrick Mazeika)? Instead of being in Arizona, Mazeika should have been in Flushing this fall to see if the second idea had any merit.

bill metsiac said...

While John's theories are always interesting, I don't subscribe to the idea of mind reading. Without more evidence, knowing why something was or wasn't done is fantasy.

I'm not defending Jeff (without the "y"), but it's obvious that you don't like him based on what you see as his personality.
In any case, Fred is a self-made millionaire, and a shrewd businessman, which leads me to believe that he didn't just turn the team over to his son without confidence in his ability.

Let's judge Brodie on how his moves turn out, not on why we think he got the job. The fact that his friendship with Jeff enables him to have influence is a plus, in that they can work together with a common goal. I didn't sense that with Sandy here (just my perception).

When you say "all the peddled players were from the Alderson regime", I must ask--- who else could he have peddled?

Dallas said...

A lot of people are on one side or the other for BVW. I think its a mixed bag so far and its hasn't even been a year yet.

-Familia - not good but I dont think anyone could have predicted that meltdown
-Lowrie - not sure anyone could have predicted he would be hurt for 5 months
-Diaz/Cano/Swarzak/Bruce/Kelenic/Dunn - you could predict Kelenic would be a star but you could also predict that the years that remain on Cano's contract do not age well. Go find productive position players over the age of 38. Its almost unheard of for anyone in their late 30's to be productive (Nelson Cruz and no one?). We have 3 seasons of Cano over 38. Even if Diaz was a star this year we simply overpaid.

Stroman - SWR could easily be a massive star and Stroman hasn't exactly been able to perform very well on the big stage yet.

Justin Wilson

-JD Davis acquisition
-Matt Allen steal in the 3rd round
-Wilson Ramos acquisition
-Analytics improvement
-Signed DeGrom to an extension before his 2nd Cy Young season
-Gave Alonso opening day nod

Really in summary outside of the Kelenic/Diaz/Cano disaster trade I'm not sure there is a ton I can kill the guy for. We fell short but its been a fun season at least. The bar may be low but its better than tanking like 8 or so teams have been doing with little hope for the future. You can already see that this team has potential going into next year with a few acquisitions to improve the pitching (losing Lagares and Frazier is not a problem).

Also you have to consider some things he didn't do that everyone wanted him to do. Machado, Harper, Kimbrel, Pollack all look like pretty big busts. Machado and Harper didn't have bad years they just didn't have years that live up to their contracts and those teams are stuck with them for a LONG time. If you go look at the free agent market and who performed this year you could have done just as well from the 11-20 guys that from the 1-10 top guys.

I think the biggest acquisition they could make is Cole this offseason. The guy is only 28 and could be the Cy Young in the AL if not for Verlander.

The thing I like about BVW is that he does not like to lose. This guy did show some ingenuity to get the Matt Allen signing done and the optimist in me hopes he keeps making shrewd moves like that. I think he also has Jeffs ear and if anyone can convince him of changes to be made BVW is probably that guy.

Dallas said...

On another note, why do people like Gsellman?????? The guy has been absolutely terrible for a few years now. How many chances does he get before the Mets move on from him? If he has more potential than we are getting out of him then find the guy to fix him and bring him back to form from when he first came up and was actually productive.

Reese Kaplan said...

@Dallas -- I had saida mtimes having watched Familia in a non closer role the first time around that he just didn't focus when the game wasn't on the line and signing him to set up was a mistake.

Reese Kaplan said...

*many. I have autocorrect!

Mike Freire said...

Interesting article, Reese.

Last offseason, I wanted the dude from the Tampa front office but I was pleasantly surprised by BVW. Yes, his signature move is not wearing well right now, but it will take time to properly judge the deal.

As Dallas pointed out, he has made quite a few good moves that have been overshadowed by the Cano/Diaz deal. On balance, he put together a playoff worthy team IF the bullpen performed as they were "supposed" to. I am optimistic about the 2020 season and beyond, largely because it seems the front office "gets it" when it comes to drafting/signing/developing prospects.

Oh and one last thing.......DALLAS should start writing for this blog! Just my two cents, but I am sure Mack would agree.

Dallas said...

Should I write a whole post explaining why Tom is so wrong about DeGrom?? lol

Tom Brennan said...

Dallas, you are SO IMPATIENT - see my 10 AM post today.

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