Stearns: ‘I expect Pete to be the Opening Day first baseman’

October 2nd, 2023

NEW YORK -- The Mets’ new president of baseball operations wants to make one thing clear: is not going anywhere this offseason.

Throughout his introductory press conference Monday, David Stearns spoke broadly on many facets of the team, while declining to discuss specifics on the identity of his next manager (Craig Counsell, perhaps?) or the primary target of his free-agent dollars (Shohei Ohtani, anyone?). But Stearns notably departed from such ambiguity when asked about Alonso, who was the subject of trade rumors in July and was reportedly even dangled in a trade offer to Stearns’ old team, the Brewers.

“I expect Pete to be the Opening Day first baseman next year,” Stearns said. “Pete’s an important member of this team. He’s an important member of this organization. I think we’re really fortunate to have him.”

That does not mean Alonso will be safe from Trade Deadline deals if the Mets falter in 2024, nor does it indicate the team is committed to signing him long-term. But it does keep alive the idea of Alonso as a Met for life.

Despite a dip in batting average, Alonso gave the Mets another strong season, hitting .217/.318/.504 with 46 homers (third in the Majors) and 118 RBIs (second). He also moved into a tie with Howard Johnson on the franchise’s all-time home run list at 192, 60 behind leader Darryl Strawberry.

Off the field, Alonso continued contributing to the community through his Alonso Foundation, including a recent $10,000 grant to Castle Hill Little League in the Bronx.

“I think the entire package weighs into it,” Stearns said. “Pete is a great player. He is also good in the clubhouse, and he is also homegrown. All of that matters.”

Under contract for one more season, Alonso can become a free agent after 2024, sparking speculation that the Mets could continue to dangle him in potential trades. In the days leading up to the Deadline, the Brewers and Cubs talked seriously about potential deals for Alonso, according to a recent report in The Athletic. Stearns, however, was no longer Milwaukee's president of baseball operations at that point. He clarified Monday that he was on the “periphery” of such matters and uninvolved in the negotiations, which created a new round of questions for Alonso to answer.

“I think Pete’s demonstrated he can handle pressure,” Stearns said. “He handled a whole lot of questions this year and had a pretty good season. He handled them well. I’m not particularly concerned about Pete being distracted or unable to handle questions or pressure.”

Owner Steve Cohen has said he could envision a scenario in which the Mets retain Alonso after allowing him to become a free agent, much as they did with Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Díaz last offseason. The team could also sign Alonso to an extension at any point before then.

Asked about the situation on Sunday evening, Alonso again said he was open to being a Met long-term.

“Listen, I love the city of New York,” Alonso said. “This place has treated me so well. It’s a really special place. The fans are just so, so passionate. There’s some amazing people here in this clubhouse. I’ve really, thoroughly enjoyed my time here. This place has been really incredible. I love it here. It’s been awesome. Some of the best memories of my life have been here. So this is home for me right now.”