Mets should show Pete Alonso the money sooner rather than later

Deesha Thosar

It was just four years ago that Pete Alonso crushed his first major-league home run, in the fourth game of his career. He hasn’t slowed down since. In fact, Alonso has averaged a home run for every 3.5 games he’s played in since his record-breaking rookie season. He enters Wednesday with an MLB-best 22 dingers in 2023, and on a pace that echoes Aaron Judge’s 62-homer campaign from last year. 

And yet, the question that keeps popping up isn’t how many home runs he will crush, but how much money Mets owner Steve Cohen will offer the slugger, and when?

With each Alonso blast — he added one to his count Tuesday and came within a few feet of two more — the decimal point on his future contract moves to the right. Alonso is building the case to become the highest-paid first baseman in the sport. The only thing left for Mets brass to do is make him a contract offer he can’t refuse before he reaches his walk year or, if they’re feeling dangerous, free agency. 

“Signing players younger, it gives guys a sense of job security,” Alonso told FOX Sports regarding his general philosophy on contract extensions. “It’s like, ‘Hey, listen, we get you for years, you don’t have to wait until arbitration, we love what you do, we believe in you, we see you here, we’re just going to make something happen.’ But also, the downside is you outplay your contract.” 

Those involved in a potential Alonso extension are choosing not to comment on where things currently stand for both sides. But there certainly should be mutual interest to get a deal done, and reaching that agreement sooner rather than later would save the Mets money and save both Alonso and the team from future headaches. 

The 28-year-old superstar is set to enter free agency after the 2024 season, and his price is only going up with each passing month, as more homers flood his Baseball-Reference page. Since his 2019 big-league debut, the first baseman leads the majors in home runs (168) and RBIs (429) and ranks third in games played (591), eighth in slugging percentage (.536) and 10th in wRC+ (138). 

While his reputation includes being one of the game’s preeminent power hitters, Alonso means so much more to the Mets franchise. He’s their record-breaking slugger, their Rookie of the Year, their polar bear, their leader, their fan-appreciation point-man, their hype-man, their do-gooder and philanthropist. He’s also in line to be the greatest Mets hitter of all time. So, why wouldn’t the club want its most important player to operate at his best as soon as possible?

“Whatever’s best for the individual is best for the team,” Alonso said. “If you get a bunch of guys in a good healthy mental space, feeling comfortable and confident, then that’s definitely going to equal success on the field.” 

Under Cohen’s tenure, the Mets have shown an appetite for locking up their guys. This past offseason, both Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil agreed to long-term deals that could keep them in Queens for the rest of their careers. Alonso earned $14.5 million for 2023 through arbitration, the highest number ever for a first baseman, but he is now the club’s only remaining homegrown hitter unsigned past 2024. Cohen has publicly stated his desire to emulate the Dodgers, and part of that process includes building the farm system and retaining the players they develop. 

“We are especially proud that Jeff worked his way through our organization over the last decade to become a homegrown star and that he has chosen to extend our partnership,” Cohen said in a January statement announcing McNeil’s contract extension.

The Mets’ Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso both crush 2-run HRs vs. Braves

The Mets' Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso both crush 2-run HRs vs. Braves

Beyond Alonso’s talent, Cohen and his wife Alex also value the first baseman’s humanitarianism. When the Cohens bought the team in 2020, Alonso was the first player to reach out to them over a Zoom call — and it was about donating to charities. Over the past four years, the All-Star has worked hard to give back to the community through Homers for Heroes as well as the Alonso Foundation. 

“Being in the big leagues, even as a rookie, it’s more money than I imagined making at anything,” Alonso shared. “So, right from the start, my wife and I decided after winning the Home Run Derby to make some pretty hefty donations and also start a foundation and help. For us, we just want to do good and spread as much positivity as possible.”

That last part — “do good and spread as much positivity as possible” is, perhaps fortuitously, the Cohen way. Alonso’s goals, both on the field and beyond the box score, fit exceptionally well with the culture Cohen is trying to create and promote in Queens. That culture includes allowing players to be themselves (vis-a-vis Alonso’s LFGM theatrics), as well as treating others with honesty, professionalism and respect. Alonso being tied to the Mets for the rest of his career would check off multiple boxes for the sometimes goofy, often entertaining, always interesting brand that is the Amazins. 

And let’s talk about that brand. Think of the Mets and you think of Alonso. The slugger’s ability to connect with Mets fans across multiple generations is key for the team’s marketing. With Alonso, what you see is what you get, and kids in particular relate to that authenticity from athletes. (Plus, think of all the polar bear paraphernalia the Mets can peddle in and around Citi Field with Alonso locked up in Queens for the foreseeable future. The Judge’s Chambers? Try the Polar Bear’s Plunge.) 

Still, it’s hard to imagine Alonso will agree to a hometown discount. Two of his core beliefs are believing in himself and refusing to underestimate himself. He’s a staunch supporter of players betting on themselves, like Judge initially refusing the Yankees’ $210 million extension offer. Also like Judge, Alonso has conviction about what he’s worth. The Mets have the opportunity to not only reward Alonso for his efforts but avoid all the drama involved in a walk year — much less in free agency when other teams could either drive up his price or lure him away — by making him an offer that he can’t refuse. There’s risk involved in that, of course, but there might be more in standing pat as he continues his powerful HR pace and gains leverage to demand more cabbage or grows weary of a reunion.

Cohen, for whom money is no object, has continually shown that he’s willing to be bold as he’s currently committed to the biggest payroll in baseball history ($353.5 million). His first major gamble (and splash) as club owner was signing Francisco Lindor to a 10-year, $341 million pact. A more recent risk was initially agreeing to a 12-year, $315 million deal with free-agent Carlos Correa before that arrangement fell through. But the Mets chairman has also shown that he’s willing to draw a hard line. Cohen and company were unwilling to match the Texas Rangers’ offer for Jacob deGrom (five years, $185 million), which ultimately led the homegrown ace to walk away. Yet, out of all of these examples, Alonso’s situation is incomparable if only because the slugger is the face of the franchise. 

It’s tough to predict where the two sides will ultimately land. Braves first baseman Matt Olson, who before last season signed an eight-year, $168 million contract, might be the closest comp to a future Alonso deal, in part because he was also 28 and two years from free agency upon signing. While the two players boast similar overall production over the course of their respective careers, neither Olson’s game nor his stature as an Oakland A’s import generate the same buzz as Alonso’s. If an Alonso extension means he will settle for nothing less than $28-30 million in AAV to become the top-paid first baseman in the sport, then something like six years, $180 million could work for both sides. If Alonso is seeking a longer contract, then something like nine years at $220 million would give him a $24 million AAV while likely ensuring he retires as a Met.

“It’s definitely an interesting situation,” McNeil said of Alonso’s pending free agency. “He’s not a young player, but if you’re able to sign a young player, it brings them that financial stability and security and they’re not really worrying about the day to day — stressing over bad games, and all that kind of stuff. 

“I think Pete’s in a great situation. He’s played unbelievable for the last four years, ever since he came up. He’s in a good spot. Whatever he decides to do, he’s going to make a lot of money.” 

One Mets higher-up said Alonso will be more agreeable to being a designated hitter after he gets his contract, which can be interpreted in a couple of ways. It’s possible, once he cashes in, Alonso won’t be as insistent on playing the field since he’ll no longer be looking to prove his worth. There’s also the thought that Alonso, who has rated as a below-average defender in each of the past four seasons, is viewed throughout the league as a future full-time DH. While such a role limits a player’s year-to-year value, and therefore commands less on the open market, it could also make one more productive at the plate, and for longer. 

Alonso even remaining just as impactful in the lineup while gradually transitioning from first base to DH as he gets older would still be a major boon. Between his consistency as a pure home run hitter and MLB recently going to a universal DH, more than a few front offices might view him as a safe bet to be a winning player deep into his 30s. Suddenly, a nine or 10-year deal doesn’t appear implausible. If the Mets don’t offer Alonso one, another team probably will. 

With Alonso in the midst of a potential career year and seemingly in his prime, a lowball offer from the Mets could compel him to pull a Judge and commit to exploring free agency while privately hoping the only team he’s played for to match the highest offer. But that’s playing with fire, for both sides, and could leave everyone burned. Moreover, depending on the club’s success between now and next fall, Alonso’s curiosity to leave Queens might be just as high as his price point. 

The Mets can and should avoid that predictable messiness this summer, or as soon as this upcoming offseason, by trying to lock up their most important player, one who has grown to superbly handle the New York pressure, atmosphere and media, while they still hold exclusive negotiating rights with him. There just isn’t much benefit to waiting, much less encouraging him to test the market. 

“If you sign an extension, you could definitely be leaving money on the table,” said McNeil, who agreed to a four-year, $50 million extension four months ago. “But at the same time, I can speak for myself, I’m not stressing over a bad game. I have enough money to do whatever I want for my entire life. It takes care of my family. You could call it a team-friendly deal, but with those things you never know. The player could win, the team could win.”

For Alonso and the Mets, the slugger staying in Queens is a win-win.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets for three-and-a-half seasons as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. She never misses a Rafael Nadal match, no matter what country or time zone he’s playing in. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar. 


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