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Hoping for a Re-Pete

If the Mets want Pete and Pete wants the Mets, why haven’t they signed a deal?

Pete Alonso is like no other Mets player I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Or, really, he’s like a few other Mets players I’ve seen in my lifetime, all rolled into one. 

Like Dave Kingman, he hits gargantuan home runs, and he hits many of them. Not only is he the Mets single-season record holder for home runs (with 53 in 2019) he is also second on the list (with 46 in 2023). It’s not only about home runs for Alonso either. He is one of only two Mets players to lead the National League in RBIs (or RBI if you want to be like that) – the other is Howard Johnson. He is near the top of the list of Mets single-season slugging percentage leaders, putting him alongside names like Mike Piazza, Carlos Beltran, and Darryl Strawberry. And he does this all while outwardly bleeding blue and orange (the kids would say “literally”; the kids would also be wrong).

While it’s true that he’s not without his faults – he is no better than an average fielder, he strikes out quite often, he doesn’t hit for a high average – he has been a mainstay in the middle of the Mets lineup since his rookie year, and with good reason. Since there really hasn’t been a player like him in the franchise’s 60+ year existence, it’s safe to say that he’s a rare breed. Rare enough that you might think that signing him to a long-term contract would be a no-brainer. Yet, here we are, weeks away from the beginning of the final season on his current contract, and the Mets have seemed, publicly at least, to have resigned themselves to letting the season play out before exploring a deal. So what gives (or doesn’t give, I suppose)?

It would be silly to think that the Mets are going to use this year to evaluate Alonso’s production. His stats have been relatively consistent throughout his first 5 seasons (or 4.37 seasons considering the COVID-shortened 2020). While it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he will hit fewer than 35 HRs this season, it’s equally likely that he’ll hit more than 55. That said, it’s reasonable to expect that he’ll hit between 40-45 home runs, have between 105-115 RBIs, and bat somewhere between .235-.250, None of that seems far-fetched based on what he’s done in his career so far. So, barring anything disastrous (like a serious injury), or miraculous (like an 2022 Aaron Judge-like performance) it would probably be easy for everyone involved to plan on what kind of contract he’ll sign right now.

So, here’s what I believe is going on…

From Pete Alonso’s perspective: He could either sign now to stay here for great money (assuming the two parties actually engage in negotiations), or he could be the object of a bidding war in which he ultimately gets to decide where he goes and potentially sign for even more money. There’s really not much benefit to him signing a deal before becoming a free agent.

From the Mets perspective: Chances are they’d have to spend at least as much now to prevent him from testing free agency as they would if they waited until he actually became a free agent. Additionally, once they evaluate what this team is, there may be some allure to trading Alonso to a contender in exchange for valuable prospects, especially if they’re on the cusp of reaching the majors, and ESPECIALLY if they can pitch. I’m not saying that they should do this. I’m not even suggesting that they would prefer to do this. Still, until they sign him, they have that option. Also, they could finish the season with him and then make him a qualifying offer and at least get a draft pick as compensation if they lose him. This is more or less what the Mets did with Brandon Nimmo and with Edwin Diaz, and they were able to sign both of them to long-term deals.

From a fan’s perspective though, this stinks. There are more than a few players who made me sad when they left via free agency: Strawberry, Ray Knight, Zack Wheeler, Jose Reyes, Daniel Murphy, and Edgardo Alfonzo are just the first six that come to mind. Now, most of them didn’t really repeat their Mets successes after leaving the team. That’s fodder for another article sometime. For now though, the point is that, according to social media, most fans would be sad (or angry) if the Mets let Alonso walk. 

Now there are some out there who claim that the Mets don’t value Pete Alonso. I don’t believe this to be the case. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to believe it, and still, I don’t. That said, in a statistical/analytical world, the team probably values him differently from how the fans do. When simply looking at his numbers, his imperfections speak much louder than they do when watching the team play.

Pete Alonso met with the media in Port St. Lucie on Saturday, and said that while he will be focused on the on-field activities this year, he is willing to negotiate a contract extension during the season. While this gives me hope that something will get done, it also means that we’ll be hearing about this almost daily for some time to come. 

You can add that to the list of reasons that I hope they get this done.