David Stearns had to know he would be asked about Pete Alonso when he met the media for the first time in early October as the President of the Mets.
“I expect Pete to be the Opening Day first baseman next year. Pete’s an important member of this team. He’s an important member of this organization, and I think we’re really fortunate to have him,” Stearns said cryptically.
Alonso is a free agent after next season. The question that was not asked, “How important?” Important enough that the pursuit of a contract extension would be considered one of the priorities for the off season.
Last off season, Mets owner Steve Cohen signed two home grown Mets. Brandon Nimmo received an 8-year, $162 million dollar contract while Jeff McNeil got 4 years and $50 million. You figure that Alonso would be next in the pecking order, but there hasn’t seemed to be much movement in that direction at this time and that is puzzling.
Alonso is going into his final year of arbitration. According to Spotrac.com, Alonso, who made $14.5 million last season, could make up to $22 million next season.
The 29-year old, who is in the midst of his prime years, has hit 86 home runs over the past two seasons. The only season that he’s hit less than 37 home runs over his five year career was the pandemic season of 2020 when he hit 16 in 57 games. That would pro-rate to 40-plus home runs over a full season.
Alonso had an off year by hitting only .217 (he should be, at a minimum, in the .260 to .270 range as long as he’s putting forth the power numbers), but he still drove in 118 runs for an offense that didn’t give him a whole lot of opportunities.
Consider the Mets were 14th in the league in batting average, 11th in runs scored and 10th in on base percentage. Only 26% of Alonso’s at bats came with runners in scoring position. 18% of those plate appearances with RISP resulted in a walk because there wasn’t ample protection behind him.
Alonso missed 8 games last season when he was hit on the wrist by a Charlie Morton pitch in June. The Mets were already in the midst of a skid and losing Alonso exacerbated what was already becoming a desperate situation. The Mets were under .500 and the Braves were beginning to run away with the NL East. When Alonso returned, the Mets had dropped 11 of 14, were five games under .500 and fell to 12.5 games back.
Are the Mets willing to gamble, as the Yankees did with their homegrown star.
The Yankees made Aaron Judge an offer before the 2022 season. He turned it down, bet on himself and had an MVP season while setting a new American League home run record.
Alonso is the leading candidate on the roster who is capable of winning an MVP. Wouldn’t that be something considering no Met has ever won an MVP and that would really increase the pressure on the front office to get him signed.
Judge put an end to any contract talk in spring training of his walk year when he told reporters that he would address it once and only once. You can expect the same approach from Alonso when the Mets report to Port St. Lucie in February.
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