Now that New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso has won honors as National League Rookie of the Year, his club needs to sign him to a multi-million dollar long-term contract, eating up at least his early arbitration eligible years.
Mets vice president and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen is well aware of this.
“We haven’t really thought that far ahead about what Pete’s financial situation will be next year other than the fact that he deserves everything he gets at this point,” said Van Wagenen Monday night, sounding more like his former role as an agent than a baseball ops executive as the first day of the GM meetings ended in Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Alonso is at the lower end of baseball’s salary scale, a 24-year-old player who set the rookie record with 53 home runs.
He earned the minimum of $555,000 this past season, just about doubling his pay by taking home the $1 million first-place prize after winning the Home Run Derby the day before the All-Star Game in Cleveland.
Alonso donated some of his winnings to good causes: $50,000 to the Wounded Warriors Foundation, and another $50,000 to Tunnel to Towers. Both organizations aid wounded veterans and first responders to cataclysmic events, like the destruction of the Twin Towers by terrorists in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I have the utmost respect for veterans and guys who put their lives on the line every day and make the ultimate sacrifice," Alonso said at the time he won the Derby. "I want to bring awareness, not only to the people fighting overseas, but the people who are keeping us safe at home.
"A bad day for me is 0-4 and being booed off the field. A bad day for them I can't even really imagine."
Now the Mets need to pay it forward to Alonso, who won 29 of the 30 first-place votes to run away with the NL Rookie of the Year Award over Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Soroka and San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis.
And for good reason. Along with the 53 homers, Alonso knocked in 120 runs and had a .941 OPS, a stat which combines on-base and slugging percentages.
There’s history for the Mets and Van Wagenen to do this.
Last year, right-hander Jacob deGrom won the NL Cy Young Award. At the time, he was a 30-year-old and had a little more than four years of service. The Mets wound up signing deGrom to a five-year, $137.5 million deal through 2023 with a $32.5 million club option for ’24.
Alonso, like deGrom far exceeded expectations and should be up next. If history is preface, deGrom followed his Cy Young Award year with an almost equally effective 2019 season.
“You know, I think the Rookie of the Year was just announced minutes ago,” Van Wagenen said. “We’re going to let Pete celebrate that. The dialogue on contract extensions often start after the first of the year. Even with Jake last year it was preliminary discussions in December that ultimately didn’t culminate in a deal until the end of spring training.”
Indeed, deGrom didn’t sign his new contract until March 26, two days prior to the start of the regular season.
In Alonso’s case, the only date that matters right now is Dec. 2 when all clubs must tender contracts to their 40-man roster players.
Since Alonso will be a second-year player, under control of the club for the first five seasons of his career, that’s just a formality.
Under the current Basic Agreement, the Mets could re-sign Alonso for just above the minimum and the player can do nothing about it.
Comparatively, the New York Yankees paid Aaron Judge, 27, just $684,300 in 2019 for his third season. And he’s the guy who had the rookie record of 52 homers in 2017 that Alonso just broke. Judge will get a huge raise through arbitration this offseason if the Yankees don’t extend him first.
It’s the dichotomy of the system and must be addressed in collective bargaining negotiations when the current Basic Agreement expires after the 2021 season.
Analytics is telling baseball executives not to sign older players when they become free agents, but the rules allow restrictions on the players under control.
The owners can’t have it at both ends.
The obvious solution is altering the current rookie minimum a couple of folds, raising the floor pay of all players in the process.
But that’s not going to happen in time for Alonso to ink a new deal.
Thus, Van Wagenen should be held to his word and pay the kid everything he deserves.