New York is all about big names and star power. The Yankees and Mets are no exception to this rule.
The Big Apple is home to established stars Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole in the Bronx, while Francisco Lindor embraces Queens with his infectious smile. And New York’s spotlight is big enough for all of them.
But perhaps the larger narrative in 2024 for both the Yankees and the Mets lies in what could define the future of each franchise: the forthcoming walk years of All-Stars Juan Soto and Pete Alonso, respectively.
Let’s dive into each player’s situation and whether they have a realistic chance of staying with their current teams going forward.
Juan Soto: A Classic Case of Yankees Championship Fever
Superstars don’t come around often. That’s surely how the New York Yankees justified going all-in to acquire Juan Soto for the 2024 season.
The trade was a costly one for the Yankees, who surrendered legitimate pitching talent like Michael King, who thrived after transitioning from New York’s bullpen to become a starter (2.23 ERA in nine starts), as well as swingmen Jhony Brito, Randy Vasquez and prospect Drew Thorpe to the San Diego Padres. The deal also included catcher Kyle Higashioka (to San Diego), while fellow outfielder Trent Grisham accompanied Soto to New York.
So in other words? A true blockbuster.
Keep in mind, this was all orchestrated for what’s widely perceived to be a one-year rental of Juan Soto in pinstripes. Brian Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankees aren’t messing around; they’ve caught another case of championship fever.
And that’s understandable after a massively disappointing 2023 in which the Bronx Bombers finished 82-80, their worst single season performance in 30 years.
Now, it’s important to remember that Aaron Judge, the Yankee captain, played in just 106 games last season. That’s a far cry from his 2022 AL MVP campaign that saw him play in 157 games while setting a record for most home runs in a season in American League history with 62.
Various injuries to key players like DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Trevino also derailed the 2023 campaign. Furthermore, the Yankees were ravaged with injuries to their pitching staff, particularly among their starters. Carlos Rodon missed most of the season, as did Nestor Cortes, Frankie Montas and Luis Severino.
Only Gerrit Cole provided consistency for the Yankees’ rotation from beginning to end, and that can’t happen again in 2024 if the Bronx Bombers want to thrive in a tough American League East. Fortunately, New York managed to sign Marcus Stroman this winter in hopes of averting some of those injury-related disasters this coming season.
But back to Juan Soto: New York only has him for one year, so the pressure is on and in a major way.
Coming off an All-Star season in San Diego, the 25-year-old Soto had a banner year with 35 home runs, good for a 155 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR as the best player on an under-perfoming Padres team in 2023. That’s the kind of elite production that can singularly elevate a team’s lineup, especially as anemic as the Yankees’ batting order was in 2023 without Aaron Judge.
Now with Soto on the roster, along with Alex Verdugo, New York has insurance should Judge succumb to injury again.
Clearly, the Yankees are banking on having plenty of success in 2024. That will hinge greatly on Juan Soto, as well as on the health of their returning players. But as we’ve seen, even the best laid Yankees plans have gone awry in recent years.
That makes capitalizing on Soto’s superstardom all the more imperative.
Pete Alonso: The Potential ‘Forever Met’ of This Generation?
There may not be a more polarizing (pun intended) player on the New York Mets right now than Pete Alonso.
Francisco Lindor, the charismatic franchise shortstop, may be a bigger ‘star’, but Alonso looms largely as the Mets’ best homegrown position player since the days of David Wright and Jose Reyes.
That’s what makes Alonso’s situation unique as compared to Juan Soto’s: the former has an attachment to the organization that drafted and developed him, whereas the latter is entering his first (and possibly only) season as a Yankee. And yet? Both stars are chasing paydays after the 2024 season, while meaning much to their respective organization’s present-day realities.
For Pete Alonso and the Mets, the desire to extend comes down to loyalty and history.
There’s no denying Alonso’s talent; the 29-year-old first baseman has 192 career home runs, which ranks fourth all-time in Mets franchise history behind Mike Piazza (220), the aforementioned David Wright (242) and Darryl Strawberry (252).
Should Alonso be for long in New York, he’ll have no trouble breaking Strawberry’s record within a few seasons. That’s what we’re talking about when it comes to Pete Alonso: the chance to become an all-time Met.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether becoming a franchise player truly matters to the ‘Polar Bear.’ After all, Alonso, like Juan Soto, hired Scott Boras as his agent ahead of his expected free agency. That means pursuing top dollar, with no exceptions.
If Alonso is prioritizing winning, however, he certainly hasn’t done much of that since making his debut with the Mets in 2019. New York has just one playoff appearance during the first baseman’s Flushing tenure: a Wild Card Round loss to, ironically, Juan Soto’s San Diego Padres in 2022.
Playoffs aside, though, Alonso’s individual production is what pops off the page. He took home National League Rookie of the Year honors in 2019, after smashing Aaron Judge’s rookie record for home runs in a season with 53 long balls.
He followed that up with 16 homers in the shortened, 60-game season in 2020 and 37 in 2021, the year he also won his second consecutive Home Run Derby title.
Alonso has since finished with back-to-back 40-homer campaigns in 2022 and 2023. The production hasn’t wavered even as the slugger enters his age-29 season in 2024, and that means David Stearns, Steve Cohen and the New York Mets have a major decision to make.
There’s no doubt Alonso will cost a fortune regardless of which route the Mets pursue. He’s likely to command a salary of close to $30 million per year in free agency and has previously expressed a desire to out-earn his National League counterparts Matt Olson of the Atlanta Braves and Freddie Freeman of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And while Alonso isn’t better than Olson or Freeman statistically, he has proven his worth as a star in the New York market and that’s worth something.
Will Juan Soto or Pete Alonso Sign an Extension to Stay in New York?
Ultimately, the belief as of now is that both players will reach free agency after the 2024 season.
However, if Juan Soto or Pete Alonso were to ink an extension with the Yankees and Mets, respectively, look for the former to sign his deal during the 2024 season. The latter, meanwhile, still has an outside chance of locking into a long-term extension during spring training, though no progress has been made to this point.
As for importance, there’s no doubt a Pete Alonso extension would hold more weight than a Juan Soto extension. That’s not to suggest a mega contract for Soto isn’t a priority for the Yankees, but his impact is yet to be felt in the Bronx. That makes his situation vastly different from Pete Alonso, who is tracking towards becoming a franchise icon.
Losing Alonso would have serious repercussions within the Mets’ organization and among the Flushing faithful, all of which would be extremely tough for David Stearns and Steve Cohen to overcome in their efforts to construct a sustained winner.