Mets owner Steve Cohen talks to Pete Alonso during a spring training...

Mets owner Steve Cohen talks to Pete Alonso during a spring training workout on Feb. 19 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — When it comes to Pete Alonso, the homegrown fan-favorite face of the franchise, Steve Cohen knows what he wants.

“We want to keep him,” the Mets’ multibillionaire owner said. “He’s an important part of our team today and hopefully in the future. We know the fans feel strongly about him. And I’m not tone-deaf, OK? I totally understand the fans’ love of Pete. I hope he hits 55 home runs and makes it so difficult on me in free agency. I would call that a great outcome.”

Cohen’s quote came in a preview released Friday of the Mets’ in-house podcast. They did not make available any other pieces of the interview, conducted by radio broadcaster Howie Rose, ahead of the episode’s release Saturday.

Cohen skipped his usual start-of-spring-training news conference with reporters — he might do one later in camp — rendering the above statement the only recent comment by the owner about the star first baseman.

Based on that small snippet, Cohen seemed to be aligned with what Alonso and president of baseball operations David Stearns have said this month: Alonso almost definitely is headed for free agency.

This is the final season that the Mets have contractual control over Alonso. Come November, they will have to compete with any other team looking to negotiate with him on the open market.

For now, Cohen and the Mets have an exclusive negotiating window. Alonso and his agent, Scott Boras, whom he hired in October, repeatedly have said they would be happy to listen to offers of a long-term deal.

Alonso revealed last week, however, that he and the Mets have had zero such conversations.

“We sat and listened, and the only thing we talked about was the one-year deal,” he said, referring to a one-year, $20.5 million pact for 2024 agreed to in January. “Definitely we welcome conversation. It’s just that the only conversation we had was about the one-year deal. But hey, listen, I’m stoked to be here. I’m really, really excited and I’m proud to play for New York.”

Neither side has indicated publicly what sort of terms they would find agreeable.

Boras is known for strongly encouraging his clients to decline overtures from clubs in favor of free agency, in which they typically can maximize their earnings.

“I can’t really think about being a free agent because I’m just simply not there yet,” Alonso said. “I’m just totally focused on being the best I can be for the guys in the clubhouse, the coaching staff and the organization.”

Asked why he has adopted a passive instead of proactive approach to would-be contract talks, Alonso said, “That’s just what I think is right.”

Viewed as a primary clubhouse leader along with Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor, Alonso has been the Mets’ best hitter through his first five seasons. Since debuting in 2019, he leads the majors in home runs (192) and RBIs (498). He also ranks third in games played with 684, having missed only 24.

Last season was an uneven one for Alonso, who struggled after a quicker-than-expected return from a wrist injury in June. He finished with a career-worst .217 average but stacked up his usual 46 homers and 118 RBIs and had an .821 OPS.

The Mets expect him to be his usual productive self this season. It might be his last with them.

“[Free agency is] probably the most likely outcome,” Stearns said last week. “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 in free agency. And we understand that. This is an organization that’s dealt with that before with really good players. And it’s ended up in a perfectly fine spot.”

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