The Mets’ retool was one of the defining stories of the trade deadline. While it became clear in the weeks approaching August 1 that rentals like Tommy Pham and David Robertson would be on the move, New York’s course of action with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander remained a mystery until the weekend before the deadline.
In the wake of trading the future Hall of Famers to AL West rivals, Mets’ brass indicated they were prepared to take a step back in 2024 while focusing on the longer-term future. Owner Steve Cohen has expressed his hope the club will be competitive next year but forecast a quieter offseason than the franchise has had in the past two winters.
The club’s less certain intentions for ’24 have raised some questions about Pete Alonso’s future. The three-time All-Star has one more season of arbitration eligibility. Even if the Mets aren’t rebuilding, there’s an argument for them to pick a clear direction regarding Alonso — either by trading him to a clearer contender or working to get an extension wrapped up.
Last week, the New York Post’s Mike Puma wrote the Mets had floated Alonso’s name in trade talks prior to the deadline. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic shines some light on those discussions, reporting that the Brewers and Cubs were among the teams in contact with New York brass. Rosenthal suggests talks between the Mets and Milwaukee had more traction than conversations with the Cubs, though it isn’t clear how close New York got to a deal with any team.
Asked about Rosenthal’s report following the Mets’ loss in Atlanta tonight, Alonso reiterated to reporters that he “(loves) being a Met (and) representing the city of New York” (via Tim Healey of Newsday). The star slugger unsurprisingly didn’t provide specifics about the chances of an extension, noting he “(doesn’t) know what the future holds.”
If the Mets were to seriously consider moving him next offseason, Alonso would quite likely be the best hitter on the trade market. He’s one homer away from reaching 40 for the third time in his four 162-game seasons (and was on a similar pace during the shortened schedule). Alonso’s .224 average and .325 on-base percentage are narrowly career-low marks, though it’s possible his rate production was deflated by injury.
He sprained his left wrist on a hit-by-pitch in June, an injury that was initially expected to cost him three or four weeks. Instead, Alonso returned within 10 days. He hit just .155/.277/.366 between his return and the All-Star Break. Since the Midsummer Classic, he has a characteristically excellent .262/.359/.623 batting line.
Alonso is playing this season on a $14.5MM salary. That figure could push north of $20MM for his final arbitration season. That’s a notable sum but still below market value for an impact bat of Alonso’s ilk. The one year of remaining control would likely prevent the Mets from recouping a Top 50-caliber prospect in a trade, but there’d still be plenty of interest around the league.
Last winter, the Blue Jays shipped Teoscar Hernández to the Mariners before his final arbitration season. Hernández was a bit cheaper than Alonso will be — he eventually lost his hearing and is making $14MM — but wasn’t quite as good a hitter. Over the three seasons preceding the trade, Hernández hit .283/.333/.519. Alonso owns a .256/.341/.523 line going back to 2021 while playing his home games at a more pitcher-friendly environment.
It stands to reason the Mets would look to top the Jays’ return for Hernández. Seattle sent three seasons of club control over an above-average reliever (Erik Swanson) and a minor league pitcher (Adam Macko) whom Baseball America ranked the #10 prospect in the Toronto system after the trade. If another team acquires Alonso over the offseason, they’d be able to make a qualifying offer the following winter to partially backfill some of the prospect value they surrendered.
Each of Milwaukee and Chicago could check back in with the Mets about Alonso’s availability, though they certainly wouldn’t be the only teams with interest. Milwaukee acquired Carlos Santana to man first base down the stretch. He’s an impending free agent, while Rowdy Tellez seems likely to be non-tendered.
The Cubs have used Cody Bellinger and Jeimer Candelario — both of whom are impending free agents — at first base since the deadline. They already parted ways with Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini earlier in the year. Prospect Matt Mervis is having an excellent season in Triple-A but scuffled in a 25-game MLB debut this summer. Even if the Cubs consider Mervis a likely everyday player going into ’24, they could certainly kick him over to designated hitter to accommodate a player of Alonso’s caliber.