Mets' Pete Alonso bats during a spring training game against...

Mets' Pete Alonso bats during a spring training game against the Miami Marlins at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, FL., Saturday Feb. 22, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

During this pandemic-induced baseball hiatus, we examine the Mets position by position. Today, first base.

The starter: Remember how uncertain the position had been for the Mets before the Pete Alonso Era began last year?

Spring training 2019 featured a competition for the first-base job, with Alonso the non-roster prospect up against Dominic Smith, Todd Frazier and J.D. Davis. On Opening Day 2018, a washed-up Adrian Gonzalez was the starter. Before Alonso last year, the Mets hadn’t had an All-Star at first base since … Keith Hernandez in 1987. That was seven years before Alonso was born.

That question mark now is an exclamation point. Alonso put up one of the best offensive seasons in Mets history with 53 home runs, which set the franchise record and the MLB rookie record. Nearly as notable as the on-field performance was the way Alonso embraced the spotlight and New York City (and the way the fan base embraced Alonso and his occasionally David Wright-esque vibes).

Other options: The Mets toyed with the idea of getting Yoenis Cespedes time at first base during his rehabilitation from a broken ankle and heel surgeries, but for all intents and purposes, the Mets’ backup first-base choices are Smith and Davis.

Smith, once upon a time, was the Mets’ first baseman of the future before Alonso usurped that title. After a series of fits and starts to his major-league career, Smith rebounded in a big way in 2019, hitting .282 with a .355 OBP and .525 slugging percentage. His personality has made him popular among teammates, a notable piece of the Mets’ chemistry equation valued by general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

Smith is good enough to be a starting first baseman for another team — and perhaps that would be the best move for his career — but he has said and done all the right things while being stuck behind Alonso. That includes learning leftfield, where he is due to get most of his starts unless Alonso gets hurt.

A third baseman by trade and a leftfielder by need, Davis dabbled at first with the Astros. Getting him reps there was something the Mets said they were going to do at the start of each of the past two spring trainings, but it didn’t happen, at least not in any meaningful capacity. Still, Davis is an option there if necessary.

The future: Alonso, obviously. He is not scheduled to be a free agent until after the 2024 season, and if regular Alonso is anything like rookie Alonso, the Mets would be wise to keep him around long after his six seasons of team control. (The Mets have shown no inclination to sign him to a long-term contract, however, in part because doing so this early in Alonso’s career would minimize the benefit of having him as a productive but extremely cheap pre-arbitration player.)

So far, the Mets have done the little things to keep Alonso pleased. They put him on the Opening Day roster in 2019 instead of delaying his debut and eventually his free agency. They signed him to a $652,521 contract for 2020 — a record for a second-year player — when they could have unilaterally re-upped him at or a little above the major-league minimum salary ($563,500). The cost of those goodwill gestures is small in the grand scheme of a team’s budget, thus a worthy investment in the happiness of a face of your franchise.

When Wright quit playing at the end of the 2018 season, there was a lot of talk about who would replace the captain as a leader and as a star. Maybe Jacob deGrom, a pitcher? Or Michael Conforto, a solid homegrown player? The best answer might be a guy who never shared a major-league clubhouse with Wright. Alonso, an All-Star and a voice of the team who is never afraid to speak his mind, may just be the worthiest successor.