At the 2023 MLB trade deadline, New York Mets slugging first baseman Pete Alonso was made available, and according to the Milwaukee Brewers, a deal was “within field goal range.”
How close they actually were to agreeing to terms is up for debate. But the key point as we sit here today is that Alonso was on the trade block a few months ago, which would lead one to believe that if the right deal came along, he could be the topic of discussions again.
That said, there have been some changes to the Mets’ front office since the deadline, with David Stearns taking the reins as the president of baseball operations for the Metropolitans last month. Funnily enough, Stearns was still with the Brewers as an advisor for the 2023 season after stepping down as the Brewers’ president of baseball operations before the season.
How much of a role did he play in trying to land Alonso in Milwaukee? Is he all in on the Polar Bear, or could Stearns be looking to re-tool the roster as he gears up for a run in 2025 and beyond? Alonso only has one year of team control left with the Mets, so this decision will be more about if he fits into the team’s long-term plans.
Obviously the Mets can always re-sign Alonso to a contract extension because they have Steve Cohen as their owner, so trading Alonso away isn’t a necessity for payroll purposes. If they entertain offers for Alonso, it would be either because they don’t feel like they have a good shot at signing him, or they feel that his skill set wouldn’t age well, which means they would rather pass on an extension. Alonso is estimated to make $22 million for the 2024 season through arbitration.
So let’s take a look at whether the Mets should consider trading Alonso.
Pete Alonso’s skill set and the New York Mets
Pete Alonso is a destroyer of baseballs. Since his debut in 2019, he has ranked in the top-three percent of the league in max exit velocity. One big factor for this is because he is also near the top of the league in barrel percentage, ranking in the 91st percentile. If you’re finding the barrel of the bat consistently, there’s a good chance that you’ll hit the ball hard consistently, too.
Combining that barrel percentage and how hard Alonso can hit the ball turns into three 40-plus homer seasons in five years, including 53 dong performance in his rookie campaign in 2019 and 46 this past season.
This past season Alonso hit .217 with a .318 on-base percentage (OBP), and an .822 OPS. All three were career lows, excluding the shortened 2020 season. Is this a trend downwards for Alonso, or just a dip in his production for one year?
Alonso is also a league average defender at first, which isn’t a knock on him, but it does put more onus on him to produce big-time power numbers year in and year out since that is his best tool.
How will Pete Alonso’s power age?
If you look at pretty much any of the “similar players” listed on Pete Alonso’s Baseball Reference page, you’ll see a trend that should be concerning, and that is that once most of those players hit 29–we’re talking Cecil Fielder, Chris Davis, Tony Clark, Richie Sexson, Mo Vaughn and others–their career numbers started to dip.
Fielder didn’t top 20 home runs after his age 32 season. Davis wasn’t the same player after his age 31 season and became a drain on the Orioles’ payroll. Clark had one fantastsic season with the Diamondbacks in 2003 at the age of 33, but the rest of his seasons after the age of 30 weren’t like the ones in his 20s. Sexson stopped launching bombs after his age 31 season. Mo Vaughn was a solid producer when he was on the field, but he retired due to knee issues after his age 35 season, and that was just two years removed from missing the entire 2001 campaign.
In a list of players that have played first base and put up big home run numbers through their age 29 season, Alonso is tricky to find a comp for because his power is so apparent, but he also isn’t known for hitting for a high average or having a high OBP. Alonso is a career .251 hitter with a .342 OBP and 192 homers in 684 games. Alonso’s batting average comes in just higher than Adam Dunn’s .249, but the Mets’ first baseman has more pop than Dunn on a per game basis. Dunn also had 41 points on Alonso in OBP. A lot of the player-to-player comparisons are like this for Alonso, which works out in his favor to one degree since there isn’t a lot of recent history for a player like him.
The downside for Alonso is that a lot of the history that we do have for a variety of these players all leads to the same conclusion.
Verdict: It’s complicated for Pete Alonso, New York Mets
It’s tough to look at the evidence and make a case for signing Alonso to a long-term deal worth well over a hundred million dollars. Yes, he has tons of pop and has been a face of the Mets franchise. There is also a long list of guys that could hit for power and average that just fell off not too long after they turned 30, too. For some it was due to injuries, like Ryan Howard. Others, it was Father Time.
People tend to forget that Albert Pujols was an esteemed home run hitter from 2001 through his first season with the Angels in 2012. In that span he hit 475 dingers, or 40 a season. He also hit .325 with a .414 OBP. He could do it all, until he couldn’t. That drop-off began in his age 33 season.
The best case scenario for the Mets if they were to re-sign him would be to have him continue production at the level he has been at through his age 35 season. It’s very unlikely that would happen, though Alonso has been able to stay healthy so far in his career. Given the track record of power-hitting first basemen in the past, it may be wise to cut the cord now and try and grab some prospects that can help the Mets re-tool.
If they don’t, they run the risk of Alonso putting up another fantastic season in 2024 when the Mets aren’t expected to be in contention, and then being in a tricky situation where they have the data on how he may age, but he just put up 45 or 50 homers and the fan base is clamoring for an extension.
This is a very tricky decision and it will likely be the biggest one Stearns has to make this off-season.