Projecting a Pete Alonso Contract Extension

Projecting a Pete Alonso Contract Extension

The New York Mets' historic payroll and seemingly immediate collapse in 2023 has quickly turned Pete Alonso’s future with the organization into a bit of a soap opera. The 28-year-old first baseman will be entering his third and final arbitration year in 2024, putting the onus on the franchise to pay, trade, & deal with another Scott Boras client heading into the open market.

We’ll assess option number 1 here, projecting the current value of a long-term extension for Pete Alonso and the New York Mets this winter.

Alonso’s Resume

Pete Alonso enters the final stretch toward free agency as a 3X All Star, Rookie of the Year, with two seasons (2019, & 2022) where he was one of the best power hitters in all of baseball. He carries an .870 career OPS, averaging 25 doubles, 41 homers, and 155 games played over the past 3 seasons. 6.6% of the time he’s come to bat in 5 seasons, he’s hit a home run. The league average over that span is 3.3%. Defensively, Alonso carries a .992 career fielding percentage, compiling only 39 errors in 621 games as an everyday first baseman.

The Next Judge Contract, Right?

Not so fast. It’s easy to get caught in the “next-man-up” mentality when it comes to elite sports contracts (mostly because many leagues are operating this way), but the numbers tell a very different story here.

When we (at Spotrac) evaluate players for an extension or free agent contract, we focus solely on a player’s previous two seasons of production. 

PLAYER GP% H/GM RBI/GM SO/GM OPS WOBP ISO WAR
Rafael Devers
21-22, BOS
91.67 1.11 0.68 0.87 0.885 0.38 0.24 4.13
Manny Machado
21-22, SD
93.52 1.09 0.69 0.78 0.867 0.37 0.22 5.9
Carlos Correa
21-22, MIN
87.65 1.08 0.55 0.83 0.840 0.37 0.19 6.76
Aaron Judge
21-22, NYY
94.14 1.1 0.75 1.09 1.016 0.43 0.32 8.15
AVERAGE 91.75 1.1 0.67 0.89 0.9 0.39 0.24 6.24
Pete Alonso
22-23, NYM
96.91 0.91 0.79 0.89 0.846 0.36 0.27 3.56

If we place Alonso’s last two seasons of work up against 4 recently signed contracts, we find a lot of comparable production - with the exception of Aaron Judge. Judge’s 2021-2022 output was simply unmatched, with Shohei Ohtani as the only player who can even hold a candle to the type of numbers you’re seeing here.

Is there a logical argument for Alonso to seek Aaron Judge’s $40M per year simply based on intangible value? Maybe. But the math certainly says otherwise.

So where does Pete’s value actually fall into place?

The Average Annual Value

Unfortunately, this metric still drives much of MLB, as it (usually) equates to the luxury tax salary associated with a contract. Right now, baseball has 10 position players operating at $30M or more on average, with Aaron Judge’s $40M the leader in the clubhouse. Just based on the eye test alone, we can assume Alsono will fit somewhere among this group.

Top 10 Average Annual Salaries (Position Players)

  1. Aaron Judge, $40M
  2. Mike Trout, $35.5M
  3. Anthony Rendon, $35M
  4. Francisco Lindor, $34.1M
  5. Carlos Correa, $33.3M
  6. Nolan Arenado, $32.5M
  7. Corey Seager, $32.5M
  8. Manny Machado, $31.8M
  9. Rafael Devers, $31.3M
  10. Mookie Betts, $30.4M

VIEW ALL

Utilizing the statistical comparison above, Alonso is producing about 4% lower than our four comparables, who carry a collectively combined AAV of $34.4M. This brings us to a $33M average salary for Alonso.

The Contract Length

Our contract length projections are determined based on the player’s age, versus the length/age of the four players he’s being compared to in our exercise. A few quick calculations brings us to a 9 year contract for Alonso, or an 8 year extension plus his final arbitration salary (something the Mets have been known to do in order to keep the Year 1 tax salary a little lighter on the books).

A 9 year contract will bring Alonso through his age 37 season, two years earlier than the Aaron Judge deal, which runs through his age 39 season. Could Pete squeeze another year or two out of the Mets here? Probably. Would teams like the Cubs and Giants tack on 1-2 years in a free agent offer next winter? Absolutely.

It should also be noted that Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor’s contract also runs through his age 37 season (2031).

The First Baseman Effect

Our math is telling us that Alonso should secure a 9 year, $297M contract extension this winter. Let’s round that up to $300M for good measure (it’s not our money).

Francisco Lindor signed a 10 year, $341M contract as a post arbitration extension (he played out his final year of arbitration before this deal kicked in). Lindor was one year younger when he penned this contract, so adjusting for that calculates to 9 years, $307Mt. In other words, these predicted numbers for Alonso appear to be in the ballpark from a Mets standpoint. But what about from a First Baseman standpoint?

Alonso projects to a near $22M salary for the upcoming 2024 season (based on arbitration calculations). Matt Olson (who just completed one of the most productive seasons a 1st Baseman has posted in years), will be playing on $22M a year for the next 6 seasons in Atlanta.

Freddie Freeman, a perennial MVP candidate, operated at $21M per year through his first five free agent seasons, then upped it to $27M per year for his next six.

Paul Goldschmidt, a 7X All star, 5X Silver Slugger, 4X Gold Glover, 1X MVP, took two years of free agency at $13M per year, then doubled it to $26M for his next 5 seasons.

These are the top numbers being handed out to the most productive First Basemen in baseball. If I told you that $27M per year is the current high AAV, is Alonso’s $33M projection now crazy? In this arena, the logical “next man up” mantra could be levied at $28M per year, or a 9 year, $250M+ extension.

It should also be noted that when comparing Alonso to these upper echelon first baseman from a more advanced standpoint (WOBP, WRC+, ISO, etc…), Alonso more or less sits in the middle of the pack.

Advanced Batting 1B Comparisons

Player SLG wOBA wRC+ ISO
Freddie Freeman .514 .383 142 .213
Paul Goldschmidt .519 .385 142 .227
Matt Olson .522 .367 135 .266
Pete Alonso .528 .363 133 .277

So while math places Alonso with the Lindors, Devers, & to some degree Judges of the world from a productivity standpoint, MLB front offices are still “devaluing” contracts based on position. While shortstops & third basemen still have no trouble resetting their market on an annual basis, many of the other positions have settled into “value” lanes.

Predicted Outcome

Can Alonso buck this trend and separate himself from these mid-20 numbers, or will he need to conform with the positional lines and accept a deal that would be considered far below his expected value? Conventional 1st Base thinking says he plays out his $22M salary for 2024, then takes on another 8 years, $225M for the remainder of his career.

We’ll follow the breadcrumbs in Queens and predict a larger than normal number, where the Mets buy out his final year of arbitration, converting that price tag into a signing bonus, finalizing a total contract at $30M per year.

9 years, $270M from 2024-2032, including a $22M signing bonus