Mets Mailbag: What’s up with Pete Alonso? What might the Mets do at the deadline?


The postponement of Wednesday’s series finale in St. Louis meant the New York Mets will have to wait three months to finish off a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. What kind of team will New York be at that point, less than a week after the trade deadline?

That was one subtext of the questions we received this week for our latest mailbag. We’ll have a second part tomorrow.

After more than one year of high power output, low batting average, are the Mets growing concerned that Pete Alonso is not going to age well? — Scott K.

Will Sammon: Across the industry, there were always some of those concerns. Since the start of last season (a span of 813 plate appearances), Alonso has slashed .216/.314/.492. At the end of last season, one longtime National League scout from a rival team told me, “He is going to have to either do more damage or start walking more. His trend is not great.” It remains early, but so far in 2024 Alonso has actually done less of both of those things. In a vacuum, I’d surmise Mets officials see the concerns regarding Alonso the same way everyone else does. But he also holds more value to the Mets than any other team, given his history with the franchise. Over the last year-plus, Alonso has supplied a lot of home runs but not a whole lot of much else. Still, there’s plenty of value there. How much? It’s one of several fascinating questions regarding the situation.

Tim Britton: What’s interesting — and here I mean disconcerting — to me about Alonso is his trend in authoritative contact. When a player slumps, a lot of people jump to chasing too much, but Alonso chased less often last season than ever before, and he’s been pretty good this year staying in the zone.

But the damage in the zone hasn’t been the same.

Alonso still barrels the ball about as often as anybody, and when he does, the ball goes really far. But he’s not hitting the ball hard, in general, as often as he used to, and that’s been a multi-year trend.

0508 Alonso Contact

The expected wOBA (weighted on-base average) and expected slugging are dips based off a month; I wouldn’t be as worried about them if not for that longer trend on contact itself. You don’t need me to tell you that, while Alonso prides himself on his defensive improvement and his generally smart base running, the majority of his value derives from his ability to hit home runs. Alonso as a 30-homer guy instead of a 45-homer guy is a big distinction.

I know it’s early (we haven’t even hit Memorial Day yet!) but the Mets look like a team that will hover around .500 for most of the spring/early summer. If they’re .500, will they buy? Sell? Hold? — Anonymous

TB: As I wrote before the season, David Stearns has generally been a buyer at the trade deadline. The Milwaukee Brewers were usually well within the playoff hunt, and Stearns rewarded that with mild aggressiveness at the deadline.

The team the Mets projected to be coming into the season and the team they’ve looked like to this point both point to them being a fringe contender around the deadline, somewhere around .500 and within reasonable distance of a playoff spot. Since the new playoff format was introduced in 2022, a .500 record the day of the trade deadline has averaged being 3 3/4 games out of a playoff spot.

That’s prime “threading the needle” territory, or what I like to call being a “tailor” at the deadline. A tailoring approach means dealing solid contributors nearing the end of their contracts and trying to replace them with younger, more cost-controlled talent. For the Mets this season, that could mean dealing Jose Quintana or Luis Severino. It could mean moving J.D. Martinez. It could mean trying to cash in on a reliever having an excellent season for one more controllable.

If the Mets are further out of it, with little to no chance of making the postseason this year, then yes, they need to contemplate moving Alonso, while still acknowledging that trading him would lower their chances of re-signing him.

WS: It may also depend on what kind of .500 team they are. If there’s a glaring need, for instance, and the rest of the field for a final wild card spot looks weak, my guess is that they’d try to improve. That doesn’t mean they also won’t deal from a surplus, if one further emerges, even if they get a prospect in return. I just think the context may matter here. The issue for the Mets now is they’re the kind of .500 team where it’s hard to say which way they’ll go in the standings, and their problems — controlling the running game, getting more from their main players, starters needing to go deeper — aren’t particularly fixable via trade.

I love Pete but I see him as traded before the deadline. Are there precedents for trade deadline deals where the player re-signs with the team trading the player away? — Anonymous

TB: It’s happened. Aroldis Chapman signed back with the New York Yankees after they traded him to the Chicago Cubs in 2016.

However, I remember covering the Boston Red Sox when they attempted to re-sign Jon Lester after trading him to the Oakland A’s mid-season. Lester ended up signing with the Cubs, and he wondered if he would have felt less comfortable going somewhere other than Boston if he hadn’t had the experience pitching elsewhere for two months with the A’s.

What’s the likely return for trading McNeil? — Lee B.

WS: It’s interesting: Luis Arraez just netted the Marlins a solid haul of prospects, and it wasn’t all that long ago — 2022, really — that people were talking about McNeil and Arraez within the same breaths. Arraez, however, is five years younger than McNeil, 32. And unlike McNeil, Arraez has continued to hit above .300. At a time when the league’s batting average is around .240, McNeil is barely passing that mark, and other metrics like OPS+ point to below-average production. So, if McNeil isn’t doing the thing he’s supposed to be great at — batting average — he just isn’t of much value.

Speculatively, unless McNeil reclaims some success, the Mets may have to pay down a significant amount of the money owed to him in order to get a decent return on a possible trade. At an annual average value of $12.5 million, McNeil is signed through 2026 with a club option for 2027.

The Mets may have replacement options in the future — but none of them are ready. Jett Williams (wrist) has been out the last couple of weeks in Double A, Luisangel Acuña has struggled offensively in Triple A and Ronny Mauricio is likely lost for the year.

(Photo of Alonso: Jeff Curry / USA Today)





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