At the Zoom news conference to introduce José Quintana, Brooks Raley, and David Robertson, Mets’ GM Billy Eppler said about the team’s upcoming moves, “A lot of the heavy lifting is done. It doesn’t stop us from being opportunistic.” Okay, so this didn’t turn out to be strictly true, as less than a week later, the team opportunistically swooped in and [maybe] signed Carlos Correa [hopefully we will know more about this soon], but the sentiment at the time was sincere. It has been a banner offseason for the Mets who, in addition to [again, maybe] Correa, have signed Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, and the aforementioned Quintana to fill their rotation, kept Edwin Díaz and Brandon Nimmo on long-term, lucrative nine-figure contracts, and added Raley and Robertson to fortify their bullpen.
Despite their 2023 payroll surpassing $380 million, according to Spotrac—this doesn’t even account for the record-breaking luxury tax bill Steve Cohen is set to pay—the club is looking for ways to further improve their roster. In addition to fortifying the bench and the bullpen, the Mets should not let this offseason end before checking one more item off their to-do list: signing Pete Alonso to a long-term extension.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he will make $15.9 million this year after earning $7.4 million in 2022. The first baseman has two years left in arbitration before hitting free agency following the 2024 season. It should not come to that and, while Cohen will likely spare no expense to keep the fan favorite in Queens for the long term, he should not leave this to chance on an open market that is likely going to be very competitive for his services.
Alonso, who turned 28 this month, has quickly become the face of the franchise over his four seasons in Flushing. He obliterated the Mets’ single-season home run (53) record in 2019, set a club record for RBI in a single season (131) in 2022, won the Rookie of the Year Award, and twice finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting. He’s also won two Home Run Derbies, which gave him broader national recognition and helped established him as one of the game’s premiere young stars. Off the field, he has used his newfound national platform for good, donating part of his winnings from the Home Run Derby to support Tunnels for Towers and the Wounded Warrior project, starting The Alonso Foundation along with his wife Haley to give back to the community that has embraced him, and wearing custom tribute cleats on September 11th, which he donated to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
All that is to say that Alonso is on the fast track towards becoming a Mets legend, the kind of player fans decades from now will share stories of with younger generations. The Florida Man has become a New Yorker through and through, and it would be malpractice not just to let him get away, but even to let him get so far as free agency. Dave Capobianco and I recently tackled this topic when we discussed Brandon Nimmo becoming a lifetime Met with his recent eight-year deal. It’s a rare occurrence with the franchise—only Ed Kranepool, David Wright, and Ron Hodges have played 10+ years exclusively with the team—and Alonso has the chance to stay for the entirety of his career, like Nimmo figures to do with his contract. It’s a big deal, and something that, for Alonso, could lead to becoming team Captain and getting his Number 20 retired.
We have seen a growing number of extensions for young players in recent years, and the Mets have been nowhere to be found. Most notably, the division rival Braves have done this with homegrown stars Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies—they have locked up a lot of their young talent to criminally-cheap contracts in recent years. The White Sox even extended Eloy Jimenez for six years at $43 million before he even played a game. The Padres, meanwhile, extended Fernando Tatís Jr. for 14 years prior to the beginning of the 2021 season. There won’t be any discount for extending Alonso at this point in time, but that shouldn’t deter the team from going down this path with their All Star first baseman. An extension gives security to the player and to the franchise, allowing both to focus on the task at hand, namely working towards winning a World Series.
Extending Alonso goes beyond the starry-eyed argument I presented. He’s also a player who has shown steady improvements during his career and figures to age well over the length of the contract. Alonso’s primary strength is his natural power and his propensity for hitting majestic home runs, and it’s hard to see that declining over the course of his contract; he has also established himself as a solid contact hitter and has proven he is anything but a one-hit wonder since his incredible rookie season. He’s already become the first Met to have two 40-home run seasons and, if he keeps up this pace, he will be the franchise’s all-time home run leader. His 146 homers which, again, he has compiled in four seasons, already rank seventh in their history, and Darryl Strawberry’s mark of 252 is well within his sights. It’s likely he will many more club marks along the way.
He has also shown noticeable improvement on defense. He once figured to be a liability in the field, but he has turned himself into a perfectly cromulent first baseman. While nobody will mistake Alonso for Keith Hernandez out there, he can handle himself at first. Plus, with the Designated Hitter now in the National League, the team could easily transition him to DH down the line should his defense decline with age.
The Mets now have the economic means to lock up their young franchise cornerstones, in addition to offering lucrative deal to star free agents, and they should continue to flex that financial muscle to keep their young core in tact. Alonso should never don another uniform for his career. He is someone who very clearly loves playing in New York and has formed a deep bond with the Flushing Faithful, something that became apparent during his rookie campaign with his LFGM letter during a particularly rough stretch. Those kind of players don’t come around too often, and they should be properly rewarded for their contributions and their passion.
The Mets can easily wait until Alonso hits free agency to sign him to a long-term deal, but why wait? It doesn’t benefit the franchise to risk that one team in need of a big bat using all their available resources to pry Alonso away from New York. The Mets did well to take care of most of their offseason shopping early, and now they have time to construct their roster and think about the future in Flushing. That future will surely include Alonso.