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Top of His Game

Brodie Van Wagenen brokers some of the fattest contracts in Major League Baseball and has nearly as much star wattage as The power players he represents

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Winter may be post-season time in Major League Baseball, but it’s game time for sports agent Brodie Van Wagenen.

At 39, the Darien resident is near the top of his game. Since cofounding the baseball division of CAA Sports (part of entertainment giant Creative Artists Agency) in 2006, the former Stanford University right-fielder has negotiated contracts and endorsements for his players in excess of $2 billion. Those deals include a contract extension for the Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, which guarantees the star third baseman $126 million over eight years. If sports agents had a league of their own, Van Wagenen would be an all-star power hitter.  

The momentum continues to build for Van Wagenen. Last April, CAA Sports entered into a joint business venture with Shawn Carter—better known as rap artist and entertainment mogul Jay-Z—to form Roc Nation Sports. The brash new agency quickly signed Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Kevin Durant and New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, among others. But the first and biggest catch was Robinson Cano, the all-star second baseman for the New York Yankees and free agent who at press time in early December signed with the Seattle Mariners for $240 million. Jay-Z handpicked Van Wagenen to help negotiate that deal, reported to be the fourth largest contract in major league baseball history.

Secrets to Success

As entertainment, celebrity athletes and mad money get cozier in bed, the competition in the agent business—never a game for softies—has heated up. To wit: Jay-Z’s latest release contains a track entitled “Crown,” in which he brags about stealing Cano from another legendary sports agent. “Scott Boras,” he raps, “you over, baby.”

Van Wagenen’s style couldn’t be less audacious. He is soft-spoken, intense but even-tempered, quick to credit the talents of his colleagues at CAA Baseball and eager to express gratitude for the support of his wife, Molly, and their three children. In these respects, he resembles the main character in the movie Jerry Maguire, or rather, the man Maguire becomes at the end of the 1996 feature film about an L.A.-based sports agent. Van Wagenen brings deep analytics and creativity to contract negotiations. To his clients, he brings something else. Even more than life-changing paydays, he offers them loyalty that extends beyond the field. When he started out in the profession, Van Wagenen said he wanted to be the agent who works for the player, not the other way around. “It’s why I got into this business,” he says. “If I lose sight of that, I need to get out.”

“Brodie has always taken care of me and my family, just like he said he would,” says Zimmerman, 29, who has known the agent for ten years. “It’s hard to find that.”

Those who’ve sat across from him at the negotiating table sing his praises, too. Jim Bowden, an ESPN analyst and former general manager for the Washington Nationals, has called Van Wagenen “one of the most respected baseball agents in the industry. His people skills are off the charts and he can be as convincing as he is genuine.” A.J. Hinch, the assistant general manager of the San Diego Padres, played on the U.S.A. Baseball Junior National Team with Van Wagenen at the end of high school and later as teammates at Stanford. “Brodie has always been loyal,” says Hinch. “That goes back to how he was as a teammate, and now as a friend, a husband and father, and certainly how he represents his clients.”