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Mudville: April 13, 2024 7:35 pm PDT

For Pete’s Sake

BY KEVIN KERNAN

Take a deep breath, Mets fans. Breathe out, breathe in. Again.

Super slugger Pete Alonso must be traded. The sooner the better when his trade value is the highest. That may be one month into the season. It could be tomorrow if the right deal were to come along.

Certainly, by the time the trade deadline comes and goes, Pete Alonso, Mr. Polar Bear Met, must be gone.

Trade him to a team that actually has a chance to have a strong postseason run and if the Mets trade him early, they should be able to get more for Alonso as a 2024 rental.

New boss David Stearns has made it clear that 2024 is essentially a gap year for the Mets. It’s a year to learn more about where the franchise stands. It’s no different than a rich kid taking a year off from school to run around Europe to learn what life is really all about.

Instead of running around Europe, the Mets get to run around the NL East (and London) and watch the real contenders – the Braves and Phillies fight it out.

Why does this trade have to happen?

I’ve got two words for you: Shohei Ohtani.

The Mets can’t make the same mistake that the Angels did last year when they refused to trade Ohtani even though he was going to be a free agent after the season. They held onto an Ohtani dream instead of facing a baseball reality.

Steve Cohen can’t be Arte Moreno.

The Angels went the good-will route thinking they were still in some kind of playoff race and by showing loyalty to Ohtani it might pay back in the end with the free agent re-signing with the Angels.

Fat chance.

In what became the worst-case scenario for the Angels, Ohtani went up the road to the Dodgers, getting an amazing deal and sticking it to the Angels. It was clear that Ohtani was going to test the free agent waters and he jumped right in, leaving the Angels in his wake.

The Mets essentially assured they would be trading Alonso when David Stearns basically announced on Monday that Alonso is going to be a free agent, the Mets have no chance of signing him to an extension before he hits free agency after the season.

Stearns exact words were: “Look, when you have a really talented player, who’s really good, who’s entering his final year of club control, who happens to be represented by Scott Boras, these things generally end up into free agency and we understand that.’’

Stearns was not only trying to let Mets fans down easy, which is an impossible task, it’s not in their DNA to handle any such news well, he also – and this is vitally important – he also hung an “Available Through Trade” sign around Alonso’s neck.

For all those teams looking for a big-time home run rental, here is your chance, let us know what you will give us in return.

That was the real message delivered on Monday.

Stearns has no allegiance to Pete Alonso, he is new in town here. Alonso has been with the Mets since being drafted in the second round in 2016 (great pick former scouting director Marc Tramuta), when they drafted him out of the University of Florida.

David Stearns was running the Brewers at that time. Now surely Stearns would love to sign Alonso back to the Mets as a free agent, it’s not his money, and now he has a deep pockets owner in Cohen – but Stearns also is realistic enough to know that Scott Boras will do what Scott Boras always does.

The Mets messed this one up a few years ago when they should have nailed down a long-term extension with Alonso. Now they just all have to play out their individual parts in this baseball play.

This time next year Pete Alonso could be playing out the roles Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman are playing this year, all Boras’ free agents, who still have not signed heading into Valentine’s Day.

It’s the way the top of the free agent game is played.

Boras also knows Steve Cohen is his kind of owner who is not afraid to spend; so Boras and Alonso have nothing to lose going the free agency route.

The Mets messed this one up a few years ago when they should have nailed down a long-term extension with Alonso. Now they just all have to play out their individual parts in this baseball play.

To make the most of the situation, however, the Mets have to go the extra mile and that means trading Alonso for a prospect or two as soon as possible. The return on players in their walk year is never as high as teams think it is going to be, but Alonso could be a bit different.

Here’s why: He shows up.

Over the last three seasons Alonso has averaged 155 games a year. Over that same span, Mike Trout, who gets all the accolades imaginable, has averaged 79 games a season. Over the last three seasons, Alonso has averaged 41 home runs, 114 RBIs and hit a respectable .250 even though 2023 was a down year in the batting average department with Alonso hitting only .217 in the Mets’ season of disappointment.

Over that same three-year span, Mike Trout has averaged 22 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .283 average. The power numbers are in Alonso’s favor because he posts. Trout is injured again and again.

That is a staggering difference in Pete Alonso’s favor and you’re welcome, Scott, I just gave you another major stat for your Alonso Free Agent Book after the season.

Taking all of that into account, if I were running the Mets I would have signed Alonso already – but the Mets, being the Mets, didn’t get it done.

It’s never easy for Mets’ fans, people like BallNine’s Rocco Constantino, I get it, but in this case they are just going to have to let Pete go and have hope that Cohen and all his money can sign back Alonso as a free agent. This could work in the Mets’ favor in several ways. They could get talent back by trading Alonso, talent that could help them and Alonso in the future if he returns as a Met. When Alonso is traded he may see what life is like outside of Citi Field and realize that he wants to be a Met for life.

Pete Alonso #20 reacts after he scored in seventh inning during game one of a double header at Citi Field on September 27, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Now it could work the other way, too. Alonso could get traded to another team, love his new home and then, as a free agent, sign there or with a different team, leaving the Mets permanently behind. But I would have trouble believing Cohen would allow himself to get out-bid for Pete unless Pete wound up with a powerhouse team.

Again, don’t be the Angels, Mets. Don’t be Arte Moreno, Steve Cohen. You already followed Moreno’s lead and hired Billy Eppler, ex-Angels GM as Mets GM. How did that work out?

Forge a new future by getting talent for a player who is going to be a free agent and a player you have a great chance to sign back when he becomes a free agent.

It really isn’t that difficult, Mets.

Another thing – for all their loyalty to Ohtani, what did it get the Angels? Turns out they couldn’t even get a full year out of Ohtani. Ohtani played 135 games for the Angels last season. He still managed to bash 44 home runs, drive in 95 runs, bat .304 with a .412 on base percentage and a 1.066 OPS but all those numbers, in the end, just created more Angels pain when Ohtani took his show on the road to the Dodgers.

Ohtani made 23 starts, but didn’t pitch after August 23rd of last season and September 3 was his final game because of injuries.

By the way, Ohtani Land in Dodger Land is so crazy now that in the MLB Network Radio report on his Dodgers batting practice on Monday, it was noted that his exit velo reached 109. Exit velo is now being reported on first day of on the field BP, which consisted of 21 swings.

OverNerding is real, folks.

If a team can get close to a full year out of Alonso, the Mets should be able to land a future player in return, especially when you consider that everything pretty much fell apart in Mets’ World last year; but despite all the chaos Alonso still managed to hit 46 home runs and drive in 118 runs.

Imagine what his numbers would be with a contending team.

Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets in action against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader at Citi Field on September 30, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

This is a painful decision for Mets fans to grasp, but remember, Mets management put you in this position by pulling the cord on last season and making it clear that 2024 is a bridge year. The Real Fight is going to come in 2025 and 2026.

Just to be clear, 2026 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Mets’ last World Series Championship, good old 1986.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, haven’t won a full season World Series since 1988 and you can see how much they are spending this year to reach the mountaintop.

The Mets and Stearns are putting it out there that they are optimistic they can make the postseason. The starting rotation though, has some big gaps.

Listen to this top talent evaluator speaking about the Mets on Tuesday: “For where they are, they should trade Pete,’’ the evaluator told BallNine. “They have no chance of winning the NL East with what they have this year. They’re not that good even if guys bounce back, they don’t have the starting pitching that they had, their bullpen might be better.’’

For their part, the Mets are talking the old familiar goal of playing meaningful games in September. When that is your rallying cry, you are in trouble. Yes, the 1969 Mets pulled off a miracle, but I don’t see anyone like Tom Seaver walking around on this staff.

The only thing working in the Mets favor is that there is so much mediocrity in baseball because teams aren’t really going for it, they are selling a fistful of hope to their fans. Perhaps the Mets can beat out the Marlins for third place. The Nationals will be dreadful once again.

The Mets finished 75-87 last season and the players continued to insist that this was a team that was much better than their record said they were, but you are what your record says you are as baseball fan Bill Parcells says.

“We expect to compete for a playoff spot and have exciting baseball at Citi Field in September and October,’’ Stearns said on Monday.

Sure.

This seems to be a year where the Mets find out about some of their young players, like can they play, while also honoring the past. Dwight Gooden’s No. 16 will be retired April 14 before a game against the Royals and that kind of sets the tone.

Then on June 1 the Mets will retire Darryl Strawberry’s No. 18 against the Diamondbacks. Glad to see the Mets honoring their past, that’s a good move. They don’t have 27 world championships like the Yankees, they only have two: 1969 and 1986 so they need to get the most they can get out of those two championship seasons. By April 21 the Mets will already have had away series against the Braves and Dodgers, so those games will be interesting.

Their early home schedule is pretty soft, so even if they get off to a decent start that must be taken into account. On May 10th, they begin an interesting stretch as the Braves come to Citi Field for three games, then the Phillies come to Citi Field for two and then the Mets head to Citizens Bank Park for two more games with the Phillies. That is not to be mistaken for the two-game series against the Phillies in London on June 8-9.

After that May series with the Braves, the Mets don’t see the Braves again until July 25 for a four-game series.

The trade deadline is July 30th.

The Mets need to get way ahead of the trade curve and start fielding offers as soon as possible for Pete Alonso. Don’t think of it as giving up on the season, think of it of facing a hard reality that never should have gotten to this point.

Make the most of a bad situation for a better future – for Pete’s sake and the future sake of the Mets.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

Comments
  • Joseph DelGrippo

    Problem for Mets is there are no teams which need a 1B of Pete’s skill set to spend that type of trade capital.

    February 14, 2024
  • Cindy

    That’s a tough one Kevin. METS sure made a mess of things by not signing him already!! I hope they can rethink and PAY the MAN!

    February 14, 2024
  • Edward Mayer Jr

    As a Mets fan who used to sneak down to the teacher’s lounge in 5th grade to watch the ’69 series, you are playing with fire if you trade Pete and don’t sign him in free agency. Steve Cohen will never, I repeat never hear the end of it.

    February 15, 2024
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