MIAMI — Mets general manager Billy Eppler took the unusual step Wednesday of denying the veracity of a report about contract negotiations with star slugger Pete Alonso, illustrating again what has been true since at least spring training: The first baseman’s long-term future will be a primary storyline hovering and occasionally swirling around the Mets until it is resolved.
Team officials and Alonso’s representatives at Apex Baseball have vowed public silence on the matter repeatedly, including Wednesday.
Alonso is scheduled to reach free agency following the 2024 season. The sides are free to discuss a contract extension as desired. The depth or substance of their talks is unclear.
“While we understand the media and public interest in player contract situations, we strongly believe in keeping those conversations private,” Eppler said in a statement. “Any circulating reports do not accurately reflect our conversations with Pete.”
The report came from FanNation, a network of blogs associated with SI.com.
“Any off-the-field matter, I haven’t really prioritized,” Alonso said before the Mets played the Marlins. “I’ve really just been trying to play to the best of my ability. I’ve been fully concentrating on the season and performance at the highest level that I can perform. I owe that to my teammates, I owe that to this organization, I owe that to the fans.
“Anything off the field, I haven’t really thought about or concentrated on. During the season, I want to be as locked in as possible.”
Manager Buck Showalter said: “That’s Pete. He answers the questions and goes over and puts together a Sudoku puzzle. That’s why he’s so good. He’s got a great support group around him, starting with his wife and his mom and dad. Pete’s got a grip on reality.”
The backdrop to all of the above: The Mets will have a new decision-maker following the regular season, with former Brewers boss David Stearns joining as president of baseball operations, a step above Eppler on the front-office ladder.
Stearns’ opinion will matter greatly in determining the Mets’ course of action, though contract calls at Alonso’s level of prominence of course rise to the level of ownership. Steve Cohen said last month of Alonso, “Hopefully we get a few shots at the apple and try to figure it out.”
Stearns will be the Mets’ sixth head of baseball operations in Alonso’s five seasons.
“I want to have a nice, open, professional relationship with whoever is in those office positions,” said Alonso, who has prided himself through the years on having a strong rapport with his bosses. “Whoever I’m in contact with, I want to handle my part. We’re in the same company but in different departments. I want to treat everybody well and with respect and obviously have an open dialogue and conversation about being able to get the most out of everybody.”
Across the clubhouse, Alonso has a teammate who endured a similar, occasionally public extension-or-no-extension saga with the team that drafted and developed him: Francisco Lindor. Lindor’s version culminated in Cleveland trading him to the Mets in January 2021 (and a 10-year, $341 million deal shortly thereafter).
Lindor said he hasn’t spoken with Alonso about their shared experience, but he greatly enjoyed his as it happened. His ground rule: no money talk during the season.
“He’s going through a great moment,” Lindor said. “It’s a great time for him, whether he views it that way or not. It’s a great time for him. He gets to say, ‘I don’t want it, this is what I want’ or ‘I’ll just wait’ or ‘Yeah, I’ll do that right now.’”
Via an extension or the open market, Alonso is approaching a massive payday.
“He will maximize his worth and deservedly so,” Lindor said. “I would love for it to be here. Wherever he goes, he’ll maximize.”