PHILADELPHIA — The first significant decision for the new Mets boss-in-waiting will be deciding who should oversee baseball operations.
Steve Cohen’s transition to Mets owner won’t become official until next month at the earliest, when MLB owners vote on the $2.4 billion transaction that would leave the hedge fund billionaire as the franchise’s control person. However, it’s also possible that vote won’t occur until the quarterly owners’ meetings in November. Cohen will need 23 of 29 votes.
The Wilpon and Katz families will relinquish their voices on organizational matters, but less clear is whether general manager Brodie Van Wagenen will retain control of baseball operations.
According to sources, Van Wagenen and Cohen have spoken on several occasions since last winter, when Cohen, a minority partner, first entered exclusive negotiations to buy the team. That deal never materialized, however, as team COO Jeff Wilpon’s potential role in the new regime became a sticking point. Cohen, as part of the feeling-out process, also got to know key members of Van Wagenen’s front office. Cohen had a previous relationship with senior adviser Omar Minaya, a longtime friend.
“[Cohen] is not a stranger to Brodie,” a source said.
The Post reported in January that Van Wagenen wanted Cohen’s input on selecting a managerial replacement for Carlos Beltran, who stepped aside after his role in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme was revealed. But Cohen did not want to become involved at the time, preferring to see how Van Wagenen handled the situation. Van Wagenen ultimately promoted from within, elevating quality control coach Luis Rojas to the position.
The source indicated there is a sense of optimism among Van Wagenen’s staff that Cohen will give this front office at least into next season before considering changes. That especially holds true if Cohen isn’t approved until November, when teams are already formulating offseason strategy. But even if Cohen were approved in October, his timeline would be tight to install a new front office.
The expectation is Cohen would hire a team president to oversee the daily operations of the club. Those duties are presently handled by Jeff Wilpon.
One possibility until a team president is hired, is Cohen would allow Van Wagenen to report directly to him. If Cohen’s purchase of the team occurred months earlier, Van Wagenen would be less likely to return.
Van Wagenen, a former agent, became Mets general manager in October 2018 following a search that began with Sandy Alderson’s resignation the previous June. Under Van Wagenen, who received a four-year contract, the Mets missed the playoffs last season, finishing 86-76.
Unless the Mets, who lost 4-1 to the Phillies on Tuesday, get hot over these final 11 games, they will again miss the playoffs, even in an expanded format that will include eight teams from each league.
Those results hardly scream “job security,” but Van Wagenen may have the calendar on his side.
“A new GM is going to have to come in and get his people in place, he’s going to have to figure out what is where,” the source said. “[Cohen] is going to be replacing Jeff’s work. Steve isn’t going to come in and do that himself.”