Alonso, Mets haven't discussed contract extension

Though slugger says he'd like to stay, he enters walk year with no talks planned

February 17th, 2024

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In recent years, has chosen words carefully when asked about his long-term future. Typically dancing around the topic, Alonso has expressed his love for New York and praised his time in the organization without offering hints as to whether he might like to stay. That’s his right. This is a business. It doesn’t serve Alonso to forfeit leverage by stating his preferences out loud.

Saturday, upon reporting to Clover Park to begin his final Spring Training under team control, Alonso made it clear that if he does value being a Met over all else, he hasn’t taken the most direct route toward pursuing that goal. New York didn’t approach Alonso this offseason about anything beyond a one-year arbitration contract, he said, and neither Alonso nor his agent broached the topic with team officials.

It has become more obvious than ever that both sides expect him to reach free agency in November.

“I definitely have envisioned myself of being a lifelong Met,” Alonso said. “And I love New York. It’s a really special place for my family and I. I’ve definitely thought about the idea. I’ve definitely welcomed the idea, but I can’t predict the future.”

Alonso’s comments came less than a week after Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns said that free agency is “probably the most likely outcome” for Alonso, while referencing the first baseman’s new agent, Scott Boras, as one of the reasons for that. When asked why he fired his previous agent to hire Boras this offseason, Alonso said he “just thought Scott and his team are the best representatives for myself and my family.” He did not elaborate. When asked why he didn’t approach the Mets with a contract suggestion of his own, Alonso replied: “That’s just what I think is right.”

But Alonso didn’t shy away from discussing his contract and impending free agency, answering more than a dozen questions on the topic without complaint.

“I can’t really think about being a free agent, because I’m just simply not there yet,” he said. “I’m just totally focused on being the best I can be for the guys in the clubhouse, the coaching staff and the organization.”

Alonso’s path to a nine-figure mega-contract has always seemed to point this way, so the fact that he’s primed to reach free agency does not actually suggest much about his future. Given that the Mets are controlled by the richest owner in baseball, Steve Cohen, they risk little by remaining disciplined now, letting Alonso play out his walk year and outbidding everyone else if they want to sign him next offseason. That’s the playbook they used to re-sign Brandon Nimmo two offseasons ago.

When Cohen last answered questions about Alonso in August, he stated: “We love him as a Met. He’s an integral part of the Mets. He’s still with us for another year, and we hope we work things out.”

Crunch time may be looming, but it isn’t here yet for a player who, five seasons into his big league career, is already one of the most decorated hitters in franchise history. Alonso is tied for fourth on New York's all-time home run list with 192 and should easily finish this season alone in third (he's 28 behind Mike Piazza). He has a National League Rookie of the Year plaque, a Mets single-season home run record and an NL RBI title. He has made three NL All-Star teams and won two Home Run Derbies. He’s one of the most popular Mets in recent memory.

That he remains unsigned could create some Trade Deadline drama, should New York decide its best path to sustainable contention involves dealing Alonso for a package of younger players. The Mets, who at the time were led by then-general manager Billy Eppler, reportedly dangled Alonso last July but did not come close to a deal. It remains to be seen how Stearns might operate at this year’s Deadline.

“It’s a lot to think about,” Alonso said, drawing laughs in the Clover Park press conference room. “I just had my first live BP session. I don’t know.”

For now, Alonso will play out his walk year under a $20.5 million contract and see what happens. Through his foundation, he plans to donate $1,000 for every home run he hits to animal rescue organizations, with an emphasis on saving dogs from kill shelters.

Whether this ends in a happy reunion, an amicable breakup or a contentious split won’t likely be clear for months. Outside of a sudden change in his negotiating strategy, all Alonso can do over the next eight months is play as well as possible.

“That’s my job,” he said. “That doesn’t really change no matter where I’m at in my career.”