Brodie Van Wagenen’s days leading the New York Mets appear numbered. Thus begins Steve Cohen’s first search for a general manager.
It’s clear that Brodie Van Wagenen‘s time in Queens is nearing the end. It’s just a matter of how he’s replaced. Will Steve Cohen fire the New York Mets general manager, or will he hire someone above him?
The Mets have been connected to some of the biggest executives in the game, namely Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein. While Cohen could make a run at the top executives in the majors, he’s likely to come up short.
Both Cashman and Epstein are under contract and currently head up World Series contenders. It would make little sense for either to jump ship and take over a Mets team that needs to be retooled.
However, that doesn’t mean the Mets will be devoid of options. Cohen can make a run at a number of qualified candidates with a wealth of MLB experience that could lead this ballclub into the future.
Mets Special Assistant to GM Omar Minaya
Omar Minaya is a safe backup option for Cohen. If he decides that he doesn’t want to go through a full search in 2020, then Minaya would be the stop-gap choice.
Cohen and Minaya are good friends. They often talked baseball long before Cohen became a minority owner of the Mets. Given their connection, it only makes sense that Minaya will be given some consideration for the role. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Minaya takes a lot of heat for the Mets’ collapses in 2007 and 2008. The reality is, Minaya put together some of the most talented teams in franchise history. They were heavy favorites to win the World Series in 2006 and dominant in 2007 and 2008 before epic September collapses that don’t fall on the general manager.
It wasn’t until he blew everything up in 2009 when things became truly awful. After leaving the Mets, Minaya became the San Diego Padres senior vice president of player operations, a job he held for four seasons.
Minaya’s best trait is his scouting ability, and since rejoining the Mets, he’s played a large role in their international scouting. Since 2017, they’ve signed Ronny Mauricio, Francisco Alvarez, Junior Santos, Robert Dominguez, Alex Ramirez, Endy Rodriguez, Freddy Valdez, Joshua Cornielly, Jordany Ventura, and Jose Butto. That’s a third of the Mets’ top 30 prospects, their top two prospects, and two top-60 prospects.
When he was New York’s general manager in the winter of 2004, Minaya made the ballclub an international free agent powerhouse, a distinction that carries over to today. A year hardly goes by without the Mets adding a top-30 international free agent.
Having Minaya in charge again would give the organization time to rebuild its farm system while giving him enough money to supplement a talented roster.
He’s not a long-term fix to the Mets’ general manager problem, but he could certainly handle the role in the short term.
Cleveland Browns CSO Paul DePodesta
Paul DePodesta is another familiar name for Mets fans. DePodesta was Sandy Alderson‘s right-hand man. He was the hand-picked successor for Alderson in Queens. Nonetheless, things didn’t go quite as planned.
DePodesta was offered the chance to jump ship to the NFL and has been with the Cleveland Browns ever since. He’s brought his heavily analytical style to Cleveland with little success, but he does have prior success as a baseball executive.
DePodesta was the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers for two seasons — 2004 and 2005. He led the team to the playoffs in 2004 despite making moves that the media criticized. His most noteworthy move was trading Paul Lo Duca in a deal that sent Brad Penny to the Dodgers. Penny went on to be an All-Star twice with the Dodgers and finish in the top three in Cy Young voting in 2007.
Things fell apart in 2005 though. The Dodgers recorded their worst record since 1992 after the majority of their roster ended up on the disabled list. Then, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt made the move to fire DePodesta.
McCourt cited the losing season as his reason to fire him, but reports have since disputed this. The major factors are now viewed to have been DePodesta’s inability to replace Jim Tracy and his reliance on analytics. The media, who were heavily anti-moneyball, had pressured McCourt into moving on from DePodesta by belittling him. The LA Times was particularly brutal and would often refer to DePodesta as “Google Boy.”
DePodesta went to San Diego as a special assistant to the general manager in 2006 and immediately made his presence felt. The Padres finished the season 88-74 before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
He stayed with the Padres through 2010, becoming executive vice president in 2008. During his time with San Diego, the ballclub made the playoffs just once but won at least 88 games three times.
With Alderson likely to return to the Mets under Cohen, it would make sense for DePodesta to return as well. His analytical mind would appeal to Cohen and could help the Mets turn things around quickly.
Cleveland Indians GM Mike Chernoff
The Mets held interest in Mike Chernoff in 2018. The Indians general manager declined to interview, choosing to stay as Chris Antonetti’s second-in-command, but things could be different in 2020.
In 2018, the Indians were one of the best teams in MLB, with ownership that was heavily behind them. It would’ve taken the perfect job for Chernoff to walk away, and the Mets weren’t that.
The prospect of working with the Wilpons likely turned him off, but the team also wasn’t ready to compete, coming off a 70-win season with a poor farm system.
However, everything has changed in just two years. The Indians are slashing payroll, which has led to the departure of Corey Kluber and is widely expected to lead to the parting of ways with Francisco Lindor.
With the core of the Indians falling apart, this might be the perfect time to jump ship. Cohen’s Mets offer a perfect opportunity, as he can provide an open wallet, an open mind, a love for analytics, and a team on the verge of becoming a contender.
There isn’t going to be a more perfect situation for a new general manager in a long time. If Chernoff is ever going to leave Cleveland, it’ll be for an opportunity like this.
Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns
David Stearns is a longshot, but with a caveat. He grew up a Mets fan and was an intern with the ballclub in 2008. He’s since moved on to greener pastures, but one has to wonder if he’d consider coming back.
Stearns was connected to the Mets’ general manager opening in 2018, but like Chernoff, declined to interview. He’s currently the top executive of the Milwaukee Brewers and turned the franchise around quickly. Under Stearns and manager Craig Counsell, the Brewers have won at least 86 games three times and made the playoffs in both 2018 and 2019. They’re currently just 0.5 games back of the Phillies in an attempt to make the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
Stearns is a highly respected executive who relies on analytics but blends it with old-school scouting. Hiring the 35-year-old would be a high-profile first move for Cohen that could set the Mets up for the future.
The question remains: Why would Stearns leave? The Brewers are playoff contenders, he’s under contract, and has freedom in Milwaukee.
It would take quite the sales pitch from Cohen to lure Stearns back to his childhood team. Would unlimited resources and a chance to return to Queens be enough?
MLB Senior VP of Player Operations Kim Ng
Kim Ng would be one of the biggest hires in MLB history. Ng is the most powerful woman in MLB history and will likely be the first woman to ever run an American professional sports team.
Ng has been in baseball for nearly 30 years, having been an assistant general manager under Brian Cashman, Paul DePodesta, and Ned Colletti. After missing out on a number of general manager jobs, including the Dodgers in 2005, Ng left the team side of the game.
She joined MLB as the senior vice president of baseball operations and has been with MLB ever since. However, she’s interviewed for a number of general manager jobs, most recently with the Mets and Baltimore Orioles in 2018. She was a finalist for both positions but wasn’t hired.
Ng is the most qualified executive to never hold a general manager position currently active in MLB, and it’s possible that she could get her shot with the Mets.
Cohen isn’t a slam dunk to be approved by the other 29 owners. One reason for that is the recent claims of sexual discrimination at his company, “Point72.” There’s an easy compromise that could be made between Cohen, MLB, and the other owners though: he hires Ng.
The Mets get a qualified new general manager, MLB makes sure the Mets are run by a person they can trust, and the owners don’t have to worry about Cohen’s public image. It’s a win-win for everyone.
This kind of agreement has happened in the past. MLB recommended the Wilpons hire Sandy Alderson after the Madoff scandal, for instance.
Ng deserves to be a general manager in MLB. The Mets’ opening would be as good a chance as any for her to finally receive her shot.