The Mets’ extension with Jeff McNeil was a no-brainer, particularly with such seemingly team-friendly terms. As noted in Brian’s article detailing that news, the next logical question relates to the team doing the same with Pete Alonso.
Despite the love for him in New York (and his record-setting arbitration award for a first baseman), Alonso still seems…underrated? Underappreciated? Undervalued? That may seem borderline preposterous, but one need only take a gander at a few of the “top 100 in baseball” lists heading into the 2022 season as anecdotal if somewhat silly examples. He tends to rate somewhere in the 50s and 60s on those kinds of lists, though we should acknowledge that they do include pitchers as well as position players. Still, it suggests it might be worth a quick glance at where Alonso’s value lies as the team has undoubtedly started internal discussions about an extension.
Although he has yet to come anywhere close to replicating the 53 home runs and .583 SLG he hit during his rookie campaign, he’s consistently been one of the game’s premier sluggers. His 40 homers in 2022 were ranked 3rd in the MLB, while his .518 SLG clocked in at eleventh. He certainly couldn’t be called a high-average hitter nor an OBP machine, but his 2022 OPS of .869 (12th in the MLB) is indicative of a player that’s more than effective at making good things happen with the bat. His 2022 wRC+ of 143, good for 12th in the MLB, should dispel any lingering doubts regarding his overall value at the plate as well.
Yet his 4.0 fWAR (38th in the MLB) seems almost underwhelming when compared to the game’s top talents. To be clear, Alonso is one of baseball’s best players. There’s no denying that. It’s his overall value as measured by metrics like fWAR, bogged down by one of the game’s poorest defensive performances, that’s keeping him from joining baseball’s upper echelon.
Case in point: McNeil also had a wRC+ of 143 this past season, though he was worth almost two full additional fWAR than Alonso. This is due to the other positive aspects of McNeil’s game in 2022, including net positive ratings in defense and base running. Francisco Lindor, who submitted an absolutely phenomenal season with 6.8 fWAR (6th), was considerably less prolific at the plate than Alonso and McNeil, with a wRC+ of 127 and an OPS of .788. Lindor, however, derives a ton of his value from the other elite tools in his arsenal in addition to his bat.
In the projection article posted last week for Alonso, Brian wondered if we’d seen the best of Alonso given the overall consistent nature of his offensive profile. It’s a fantastic question, but one that doesn’t necessarily address the component of his game that could add the most overall value with its improvement: his defense.
Since essentially being drafted and through his time as a prospect, the biggest knock on Alonso was his defense and ability to be even adequate at first base. To his credit, he’s openly stated that he wants to win a gold glove one day, and he made notable improvements that led to a much improved defense in 2021. He regressed hard in 2022, though, with a career-worst Outs Above Average (OAA) of -7 (versus an OAA of 1 in 2021) that placed him firmly among the worst in the league.
If there’s ever a “leap” for Alonso to make, even at this stage of his career, it’s likely going to come with the glove or not at all. Barring a historic offensive season, hopes of seeing him at the top of MVP ballots are seemingly remote. Alonso doesn’t need to be an MVP to be a huge cornerstone player for the Mets now and moving forward, but the potential to be more will remain a tantalizing question as the team ponders what they deem fair value for any kind of contract extension.
What terms do you think would be fair for an Alonso extension?