Pete Alonso has been the driving force of Cubs-related news over the last few days, which is really only a good thing for those of us who operate blogs that get more traffic from rumors than from actual news. It started out with 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine saying the Cubs would do “everything they can” to trade for Alonso this winter, then continued with ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reporting on ESPN 1000 that the slugger “wants to come here.”
While I’m sure the dueling scuttlebutt has absolutely nothing to do with radio ratings — ESPN 1000 trails 670 The Score by a wide margin in the coveted weekday prime slots — it’s impossible to deny the commercial merit of topics like this. And besides, the rumors all made sense given the greater context of the situation. The Cubs have been seeking to add power for a long time now, they were rumored to have been in talks for Alonso ahead of the deadline, and the Mets may be looking to retool and get younger.
With just one year left on his deal, ol’ Polar Bear might represent more value to the Mets as a trade chip than as another expensive veteran moving forward. Then again, there’s something to be said for keeping cornerstone players around beyond their rookie deals.
“Pete is a great player,” new Mets president of baseball ops David Stearns said during his introductory press conference earlier this week. “He is also good in the clubhouse. And he is also homegrown. All of that matters. I expect Pete to be the Opening Day first baseman next year.
“Pete’s an important member of this team. Pete’s an important member of this organization. And I think we are really fortunate to have him.”
A lot of folks have pointed to those statements as definitive proof that the Mets truly want to keep Alonso around, but I see it as little more than verbal eyewash. Of course Stearns is going to say this. I mean, he can’t come out and give up what little leverage he’s got given the reduced club control by saying they’re looking to pull off a trade.
There is, however, a recent development that contradicts one of the aforementioned rumors in a big way. Rogers noted during his conversation on the Kap and J. Hood Show that Alonso would be amenable to a reasonable extension with the Cubs, citing his agent’s familiarity with Jed Hoyer. The only problem is that the agent in question at the time was Adam Karon of Apex Baseball.
As Jon Heyman of the New York Post was first to report Thursday morning, however, Alonso has switched representation to Scott Boras and BorasCorp ahead of his walk year. That probably means the first baseman is intent on testing free agency after this season one way or the other, in which case you can kiss the idea of a reasonable extension following a trade goodbye. Boras is employed by players and is thus required to act in their best interests, which certainly can include hometown discounts on extensions or new deals, but you don’t hire this dude if you’re just looking to ink a team-friendly contract.
That should make an offseason trade even more likely, especially if Heyman is correct that Boras may use monster deals he worked out for Prince Fielder (nine years, $214 million) and Mark Teixeira (eight years, $180 million) as benchmarks. I’m struggling with the realization that the most recent of those deals was signed prior to the 2014 season and that both players retired in 2016. Time flies, man.
It’ll be difficult enough for the Mets to work out an extension, particularly if they’re basing their numbers on Paul Goldschmidt‘s five-year, $125 million deal, but I don’t think there’s a chance in hell Alonso extends with a new team following a trade. Even though he blasted 46 homers, he’s coming off the worst full season of his career in terms of batting average, wRC+, and fWAR. If there’s anything Boras lives for more than a huge deal, it’s seeing one of his players increase their value with a big season.
Whether it’s with swellopts or pillow contracts, part of the super agent’s appeal is that he’s willing to bet big on the guys he represents. Guys like Cody Bellinger, for instance. Bellinger could have garnered multi-year deals elsewhere but chose to sign with the Cubs because they provided what player and agent perceived as the best opportunity to rebound over one season. And, boy howdy, were they right.
This all creates an interesting dynamic because Alonso’s trade value should be markedly less if the perception is that he won’t extend. Between that and the single season of club control, it’s hard to believe the Mets would be able to pull a top-10 prospect from the Cubs in the event that the two teams do engage in talks. Twitter user Stan (@Crewsett) has a very good thread on exactly that topic, so check it out if you have the time and inclination.
For those who wish to remain here, the comps in question are last year’s deals for Teoscar Hernández and Hunter Renfroe. While Alonso is a better hitter than either of those two, it’s mitigated by the fact that he plays a more fungible position. What it comes down to is something like an MLB-ready reliever like Hayden Wesneski or Jeremiah Estrada, a potentially risky upside arm like Kohl Franklin or Michael Arias, and a depth piece.
Take your pick on that latter category, which could depend on whether and how much of Alonso’s arb salary for 2024 the Mets are willing to pay down. I’ve seen Matt Mervis‘s name thrown around for obvious reasons, though I don’t know that the Cubs would be willing to do that if Alonso is indeed perceived as a rental player.
Speaking of which, I have seen a lot of chatter about not wanting to deal for Alonso without the guarantee of an extension. Why? The Cubs have more than enough depth to swing a trade that makes them appreciably better for 2024 without putting much of a dent in the system. The entire point of a farm system is to produce players that help you in the majors, either through their own contributions or by bringing back impact players via trade.
The last little wrinkle I’d like to examine here is the idea that Alonso and Bellinger now have the same representation. I’m not suggesting Hoyer will embroil himself in a tampering scandal or anything, but the Cubs do have exclusive negotiating rights with Bellinger until free agency officially opens and there’s nothing stopping Boras from talking with his players about where he thinks they could fit best. Nor is there any rule against players talking with one another about their own experiences.
Even though it sounded to me like Hoyer was less than bullish on being able to bring Bellinger back, it’s impossible to take anything at face value right now. Levine noted that the Cubs were going to target Alonso to pair with Bellinger, so maybe they’ve been plotting this whole chess game several moves in advance. Or maybe this is all just so much BS for us to talk about when there’s no actual baseball going on.