Mets’ star first baseman is ‘most likely’ hitting free agency according to GM

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets had a busy offseason adding low-cost fliers to improve their pitching depth while bringing in new voices to improve the organization’s player development. One of the biggest storylines of the winter was the extension rumors surrounding star first baseman Pete Alonso, who is set to hit free agency following the 2024 season. Represented by Scott Boras, who typically avoids extensions, the 29-year-old slugger will likely not take an extension that keeps him in Queens, and it’ll be a topic to revisit for Steve Cohen and David Stearns next winter.

Entering what many are expecting to be a bridge year for the New York Mets, Pete Alonso’s free agency case will loom as the team looks to position themselves for a sustainable successful future.

Pete Alonso’s Impending Free Agency Looms Over Mets

MLB: Game Two-Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
Sep 30, 2023; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets designated hitter Pete Alonso (20) reacts after flying out during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last season was a weird one for the New York Mets, but it wasn’t the most ideal campaign for Pete Alonso either. He still hit 46 home runs, the third-most for any hitter last season, but the average (.217) and on-base percentage (.318) were the worst marks of his career. His 121 wRC+ was a 20-point decline from his monster 2022 season, but the underlying data suggests that he ran into some unfortunate batted-ball luck. Alonso’s expected batting average (.246) indicates he should have hit for a much higher average than he did, which would have improved his OBP and his wRC+ as a whole.

The question the Mets have isn’t whether they can afford Pete Alonso or not, but instead, if he’s going to be worth the long-term money he’s going to ask for. Scott Boras will likely ask for the largest contract ever given to a first baseman set by Joey Votto ($225 million), and the years could create a decade-long contract to a 30-year-old at a position where it’s difficult to accumulate WAR. Some may point at the flaws of WAR to say that it shouldn’t be applied to first basemen, but the inherent lack of value defensively is baked into the calculations, and that will raise some questions for David Stearns.

It’s not as simple as letting Pete Alonso walk, he’s a fan favorite in Queens and is one of the few power hitters they have on the roster, a skill that they lacked even when they won 101 games in 2022. Nobody has more home runs (192) or runs batted in (498) than Pete Alonso, and that kind of run production would sorely be missed. While the Mets have an emerging young crop of prospects, they still want to contend in the near future, and Pete Alonso could be a key piece on a Mets’ playoff team.

new york mets, pete alonso
May 19, 2023; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) reacts as he rounds the bases after hitting a game tying grand slam home run against the Cleveland Guardians during the seventh inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The situation is far too complex to boil down to making a decision now on whether Pete Alonso should be part of the New York Mets’ future plans. His contract demands could be in line with what David Stearns is comfortable offering, and his numbers in a walk year could be impressive enough to make him indispensable. It’s also possible that the Mets will be a playoff team this season, as most projection systems have them finishing above .500 for the season.

Whatever the Mets decide to do with Pete Alonso, it’s clear that they won’t reach a pre-season extension, and the two sides will likely meet again once free agency rolls around next winter. This doesn’t mean that the Mets are definitely finished this winter, however, as there are a plethora of quality bats available and they could look for a DH. They’ve been linked to J.D. Martinez, who clubbed 33 home runs with a .893 OPS across 113 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, making his sixth All-Star team.

It’ll be an interesting few weeks for the Mets and other teams still lurking in free agency, as there’s a bevy of talent waiting to find a home with Spring Training just a couple of weeks away.