The Mets renewed the contracts of many of their pre-arbitration players on Wednesday. First baseman Pete Alonso was among them. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, the Mets wanted to “reward” Alonso for his highly productive 2019 season, giving him a 17.5 percent raise to $652,521. He earned $555,000 last year. The league minimum salary for 2020 is $563,500, for reference.
Alonso was “shocked and thrilled” with the pay raise.
Alonso, you may recall, won a $1 million first place prize in the Home Run Derby last year. He donated $50,000 to each the Wounded Warrior Project and Tunnel To Towers. Those two donations alone eclipse his pay raise from 2019 to ’20. His prize for winning the Home Run Derby is only $207,521 less than his combined salaries for 2019-20.
Frequent readers of this website will be shocked at where I’m going with this, but we have a problem here! The system is broken, as it allows teams to criminally underpay their best players and claim benevolence when they toss a pre-arbitration player what amounts to change found in between the couch cushions.
Last season, at the age of 24, Alonso hit .260/.358/.583 with 30 doubles, 120 RBI, and 103 runs scored in 693 plate appearances. He led all of baseball with 53 home runs, obliterating the Mets’ single-season home run record of 41 previously held by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltrán. Along with making the NL All-Star team and winning the Home Run Derby, Alonso finished seventh in NL MVP Award balloting and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Assuming he can stay healthy and productive, Alonso will eventually be paid commensurate to his value. The Mets, if they don’t trade him, might approach him with the idea of a contract extension as he nears his first year of arbitration eligibility following the 2021 campaign. Otherwise, he will have to wait until after the 2024 season to become a free agent. Of course, Alonso could potentially suffer a career-ending injury before then, permanently removing that carrot at the end of the stick, which is why it’s important to get paid now rather than later.
For as “overpaid” as the handful of players at the top are, many more like Alonso are systematically underpaid. Both teams and the players themselves have caught onto this and have arrived at somewhat of an equilibrium, as we have seen increasingly more contract extensions involving pre-arbitration players than we have in years past. Ultimately, though, the union needs to work to find a way to make sure players like Alonso are able to earn pay more in line with the work they put in on the field.