During the baseball pandemic induced hiatus, we checked the position of the Mets based on position. Today, first base.
Beginner: Remember how uncertain the position of the Mets was before the Pete Alonso Era began last year?
Spring training in 2019 featured competition for first-rate employment, with Alonso a non-register prospect against Dominic Smith, Todd Frazier and J. Davis. On Opening Day 2018, newborn Adrian Gonzalez is a starter. Before Alonso last year, the Mets didn’t have an All-Star on their first base since … Keith Hernandez in 1987. It was seven years before Alonso was born.
The question mark is now an exclamation point. Alonso put up one of the best offensive seasons in Mets history with 53 home runs, which set a franchise record and an MLB rookie record. Almost as prominent as appearances on the pitch is the way Alonso embraces the spotlight and New York City (and the way the fan base embraces Alonso and the occasional David Wright-esque vibe).
Another choice: The Mets played around with the idea of getting Yoenis Cespedes at the first base during rehabilitation from ankle fractures and heel surgery, but for all intents and purposes, the Mets reserve base-back options are Smith and Davis.
Smith, once upon a time, was the Mets’ first baseman in the future before Alonso won the title. After a series of matches and starting his major league career, Smith bounced back in 2019, reaching 0.282 with a percentage of 0.355 OBP and 0.525. His personality has made him popular among teammates, an important part of the Mets chemical equation which is valued by general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
Smith is good enough to be the first baseman to start for another team – and maybe that would be the best move for his career – but he has said and done all the right things while stuck behind Alonso. That includes studying the left field, where he will get most of his beginnings unless Alonso is injured.
Third Baseman traded and left winger out of necessity, Davis initially tried Astros. Giving him reps there was something the Mets said they would do at the start of each of the two training courses last spring, but that didn’t happen, at least not in a meaningful capacity. Even so, Davis is the choice there if necessary.
Future: Alonso, of course. He was not scheduled to become a free agent until after the 2024 season, and if the Alonso regular was like a beginner to Alonso, the Mets would be wise to keep him there long after six seasons of team control. (The Mets did not show a tendency to sign him into a long-term contract, however, partly because doing this early in Alonso’s career would minimize the benefits of making him a productive but very cheap pre-arbitration player.)
So far, the Mets have done little things to make Alonso happy. They put him on the Opening Day list in 2019 instead of postponing his debut and finally his free agent. They signed him for a $ 652,521 contract for 2020 – a record for a second year player – when they could unilaterally raise him back at or slightly above the major league minimum salary ($ 563,500). The cost of the goodwill movement is small in a large team budget scheme, so it is a worthy investment in the happiness of your franchise’s face.
When Wright stopped playing at the end of the 2018 season, there was a lot of talk about who would replace the captain as leader and as a star. Maybe Jacob deGrom, a pitcher? Or Michael Conforto, a solid local player? The best answer is probably the man who never shared a major league clubhouse with Wright. Alonso, the All-Star and the voices of the team who have never been afraid to speak, may be only the most valuable successors.
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