The Astros had been talking to Lance Berkman to be their DH and play some first base. It seems as though they’re going in a different direction now, though:
Probably less money than Berkman was looking for, based on previous reports.
Pena has always been a low-average hitter, and that was OK when he hit for a lot of power and took walks. He still walked 87 times last year but his homers dipped to 19 and his doubles went down by ten from the year before. That left an ugly line of .197/.330/.354. In light of that he represents some pretty major uncertainty. Although Berkman would have as well, just less with performance than with health.
In other news, now that Pena has signed with Jeff Luhnow’s new-look Astros after having previously played for Andrew Friedman’s Rays, Theo Epstein’s Red Sox and Billy Beane’s A’s, he’s only one punch short on the “sign with a SABR-friendly general manager” card from a free contract.
Earlier, Craig wrote about the latest in the Mets’ search for a new general manager. Their list has been pared down to three candidates: Chaim Bloom (Rays senior VP of baseball operations), Doug Melvin (Brewers senior advisor), and agent Brodie Van Wagenen (of Creative Artists Agency).
It’s a diverse list, for sure, which makes one wonder what process allowed them to arrive at these final three candidates. Bloom is new school, Melvin is older-school, and Van Wagenen is… just inexperienced. Van Wagenen in particular is an interesting candidate as he has spent years advocating on his clients’ behalf. As a GM, he would do the exact opposite: he would try to take advantage of his players whenever possible, like every other GM in baseball does (e.g. manipulating service time).
Per Mike Puma of the New York Post, agent Scott Boras thinks there would be a conflict of interest if an agent were to become a GM. Boras, in fact, says he has turned down opportunities to lead front offices. But there is no verbiage saying that an agent must divest himself of his business interests before taking a job in a front office. Dave Stewart and Jeff Moorad are two examples of agents who later went onto the ownership side of the business. Stewart, in fact, moved into the front office after retiring and held various roles in with various organizations until he started Sports Management Partners (renamed Stewart Management Partners). He transferred control of the agency to Dave Henderson before he joined the Diamondbacks’ front office near the end of the 2014 season.
Ownership and labor are in constant conflict, even when things seem peaceful. Ownership wants to extract as much labor as possible as cheaply as possible. Labor wants to be paid for their work as much as possible. Their goals contradict each other and yet they need each other. While not required, usually being deeply on one side or the other — as agents and GM’s are — speaks to one’s personal ethos about the eternal tug-of-war. That Van Wagenen is so eager to switch sides speaks, perhaps, to opportunism. I would be, at minimum, unsettled if I were a client of Wan Wagenen’s at CAA. How might he use the sensitive information he was privy to as an agent to his advantage as a GM?
We have seen the analytics wave take over front offices around baseball. As ownership looks for ever more ways to pocket more cash, Van Wagenen’s candidacy may signal an upcoming wave of agents transitioning into front office roles. Hopefully that doesn’t become the case. There may be no one better equipped to take advantage of labor than someone experienced on that side of the battlefield.