Upon thinking about top-tier position players the Mets have developed, what are some names that immediately come to mind?
The four dudes I think of are Darryl Strawberry, Edgardo Alfonzo, David Wright, and Jose Reyes. Among this group, Wright and Reyes stand out for a couple of reasons. They played for the Mets during this author’s formative years, so they made an impression on me. But it was also very cool to see the Mets develop and promote two players who appeared to be franchise cornerstones.
It’s a different situation, but Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil have provided a similar kind of hope since landing in the big leagues. The 2022 season was a banner one for both the Polar Bear and the Flying Squirrel.
Alonso’s 131 RBI led baseball and set a new single-season franchise record. He also added 40 homers in the process. The first baseman is not only New York’s single-season home run and RBI king, but he’s also the only Mets hitter to collect multiple performances of 40-plus homers and 120-plus RBI. His OPS+ settled in at 146 this past season.
McNeil had a lot to prove after a disappointing 2021 campaign that included a .679 OPS and 87 OPS+. That’s exactly what he did, improving those numbers to .836 and 140, respectively. It included a .326 average, which made him MLB’s batting champion.
The Mets having two players with an OPS+ above 140 in the same year hasn’t happened often in franchise history:
Jeff McNeil & Pete Alonso each posted an OPS+ of at least 140 in 2022.
It’s the sixth time in #Mets history that a pair of teammates each recorded an OPS+ of 140 or better (min. 500 PAs).
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) October 26, 2022
Both of them added to their resume on Thursday, too. These homegrown players were among five Mets hitters named as finalists for a Silver Slugger Award.
As New York prepares for 2023, we know one thing about this club. They have a win-now mentality and will all but likely be big spenders this winter. One thing that’d help the front office in the coming seasons is to lock down Alonso and McNeil to extensions now.
This probably won’t even be a thought until spring training. After all, New York has many areas to fill ahead of Opening Day. But instead of going through arbitration, the Mets are better off locking Alonso and McNeil down for the next few years. That’ll not only give the front office fewer decisions to make, but it’ll also provide cost certainty for future payroll considerations.
They’ve each shown an ability to consistently perform at a high level in New York, which is important. They’re also well-liked amongst the fan base, which is equally important. When you have homegrown players who are consistently among the best at their position, you find a way to hold onto them.
What could it potentially take for these two to sign long-term deals with the Mets? Patrick Glynn of Metsmerized shared a couple of comps for each. In Alonso’s case, he used Matt Olson of the Braves, who signed an eight-year, $168 million extension last winter.
McNeil is in a different situation because he’ll be entering his age-31 season in 2023 (Alonso will be 28). Glynn used Justin Turner’s four-year, $64 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 as a comp, ultimately landing on a five-year, $65 million contract (with the fifth year being an option).
You look at these numbers and one thing comes to mind: it’s a no-brainer. As long as the Mets believe both Alonso and McNeil will remain productive, they need to pull the trigger. We know the money isn’t going to be a problem. Heck, it’d probably end up being a steal for New York.
Once Wright joined Reyes in Flushing during the 2004 season, Mets fans knew the left side of the infield was set for the foreseeable future. We also thought they’d be hoisting multiple trophies together when they signed team-friendly extensions just days apart in August of 2006.
As Wright exited his final game in 2018, the hug he and Reyes shared was awesome, but also bittersweet. There were two of the organization’s best homegrown position players. They were in their respective primes at the same time during one of the Mets’ longest competitive runs in franchise history. Unfortunately, all they had to show for it was one National League East title, a heartbreaking NLCS loss, and two late-season collapses.
It just makes me think about what could’ve been, and how his prime and Reyes’ prime was wasted. That wrong can’t be made right, but we can hope history doesn’t repeat itself with Alonso and McNeil.
But, first things first. Sign these dudes to extensions and then go out and make it worthwhile.