Pete Alonso talks about being a Met and more as spring training begins in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/Alejanda Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil have been good buds since their minor-league days, from the relative obscurity of Binghamton to the brightest lights of the Big Apple. They are among each other’s most vocal supporters, form as strong of a right side of the infield as any in the majors and have shared many a meal over more than a half-decade.

But when they get dinner these days, who pays?

“Well, Jeff got his contract,” Alonso, who still has a larger 2023 salary, said Wednesday. “So, Jeff.”

Indeed McNeil did get his contract, signing a four-year, $50 million deal last month. He followed another homegrown standout, Brandon Nimmo, who cashed in for eight years and $162 million in December. Under owner Steve Cohen and general manager Billy Eppler, the Mets have prioritized paying players they know they can trust.

Alonso is the most prominent member of the Mets’ core without a long-term contract. He and the team agreed to a $14.5 million pact for this season, avoiding arbitration in January, and he will remain under control for 2024 — after which he is scheduled to hit the open market.

Still two seasons away — or already only two seasons away, depending on your perspective — Alonso’s potential free agency is a storyline that will simmer in the background unless or until the Mets lock him up, the subtext for everything he and the team accomplish between now and then.

“He’s got [a contract for this season], doesn’t he? And we control him next year too, right?” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s not a free agent this week.”

Noting that he was “super happy” to see McNeil get rewarded, Alonso politely declined to discuss the possibility of an extension for himself, deferring all questions to his representatives. Eppler and Alonso’s agent, Adam Karon of Apex Baseball, have vowed public silence on the matter.

Alonso instead stressed his focus on the immediate term, reemphasizing his themes from years past about his appreciation of the Mets and New York.

“I love this team, I love representing the city of New York, I love representing the New York Mets,” he said. “It’s a great place to play. I’m really happy with where I’m at. Regarding the future, I don’t know what it holds. I’m a New York Met in 2023 and really happy, really stoked to be here.”

Showalter said: “[Alonso] is in a good headspace right now. As he said, he’s paying the bills well.”

What would it mean to play here his entire career?

“I know I’m a New York Met in 2023, and I’m really happy and fortunate to be here,” Alonso repeated. “I love the city and I love the fan base. I love being here. I’ve really enjoyed my time here. Honestly, any speculation or anything on the future, I don’t know. But I love it here.”

With that, Alonso perhaps unknowingly followed the advice of Max Scherzer, a veteran of the business of baseball, free agency and gigantic contracts. He is comfortable giving tips to younger players inching along that process.

“When you walk through those doors, make sure you know what you’re here for,” Scherzer said. “Are you here for the contract or are you here to win? If you’re here to win, trust me, the contract will happen. That’s all you gotta know.”

To that end, Alonso will play for the United States in the World Baseball Classic — an occasion that, while exciting on its own, he hopes also will benefit his work with the Mets.

Through four years in the majors, Alonso has played in three playoff games. The WBC environment of de facto All-Star teams and jam-packed crowds sometimes imitates the intensity of the postseason.

Alonso is desperate for that sort of action.

“Hopefully those high-intensity games can give me experience so I can really help the team win and advance and win a championship,” he said. “Experiences, I feel like in those key situations, you can draw back on that and help you be successful in high-pressure moments.

“Performing in the postseason, that’s the most meaningful time in all of a baseball season. To be able to have those experiences I think would be extremely valuable, especially for me as a young guy.”

How will Pete Alonso's eventual big-money payday compare to the highest-paid first basemen? Here's the top five in average annual value among active players at the position:

1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers  $31M

2. Freddie Freeman, Dodgers $27M

3. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals $26M

4. Joey Votto, Reds $22.5M

5. Matt Olson, Atlanta $21M

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