The New York Mets Have to Decide Which Core to Believe in

With a decision on Pete Alonso looming, the New York Mets have to decide who will be part of their core to build around for 2025 and beyond.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 03: Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets celebrates with Francisco Lindor #12 after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 03, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Every great team in the history Major League Baseball starts with one thing. A core of players that can be built around. If we got really technical every team, by definition, has a core but there are some that are far better than others, and it is the one’s with track records of success that get remembered.

The Yankees built dynasties on “core players” like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle, before the “Core Four” of the 1990s and early 2000s. The Houston Astros have seen great success in recent years, with a core that has included Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander and others.

Core groups evolve and change over time, but the foundational pieces are what points towards the window of contention a franchise can have. The 1986 Mets were made up of a fantastic core, which started with two first round picks, who turned into consecutive homegrown Rookie of the Years in Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden. Two Mets who just saw their jerseys retired this year.

Now that core grew to include outside additions of Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, along with countless other contributors who were part of some great teams starting in 1984, which carried throughout the decade.

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Due to the age of Hernandez and Carter, and abridged primes of Strawberry and Gooden, that core didn’t have the staying power to win multiple titles, but the Mets have been chasing the history they left for the better part of four decades now.

Over the years, the Mets have built around plenty of talented players, such as Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, seven-time All-Star David Wright, two-time Cy Young Jacob deGrom, and others, and yet the ultimate prize still alludes them.

For the Mets to reach the mountaintop that owner Steve Cohen so desires, it is going to take a great core of players that can deliver on that promise. The dilemma every franchise must grapple with though, is identifying when you have a core worth building around.

Staring down the barrel of another lost season, and four years into the Cohen era, the Mets are at a crossroads with the core that has been in place since ownership changed hands in 2021. They have arguably the franchise’s most popular player heading towards free agency, with two other stars entrenched on long-term deals that span across the rest of this decade.

When it comes to the core of Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso, how much longer will this trio be together and if they aren’t the group that takes the Mets to the promise land, than who is?

Will the Mets Trade or Keep Pete Alonso?

When you look at the Mets rosters of the Steve Cohen era, there have been five constants across all four years. You have Lindor, who was traded to the Mets prior to the 2021 season; Edwin Diaz, who was traded for back in 2019; and three homegrown players with Alonso, Nimmo and Jeff McNeil.

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Of that group of five, everyone has received a check from Cohen on a long-term contract except Pete Alonso. There’s the elephant in the room, so let’s just get it out of the way at the top.

Based on the deals that have been given out, the Mets are all-but tied to a core of Lindor, Nimmo, McNeil and Diaz. Now due to his performance since winning a batting title in 2022, McNeil has fallen out of favor, and has even seen himself relegated to a platoon role as of late.

While we can’t entirely rule out a bounce back at some point from the two-time All-Star, McNeil’s is looking like a contract that could weigh heavy on the Mets books for the next two and half years, or one that could be eaten down and flipped if there is a team out there who believes in a change of scenery helping him.

Regardless, McNeil must be set off to the side in this discussion, as the Mets are by no means building around him at this stage. Instead, it is Lindor and Nimmo who the team clearly building around, as the two-highest paid players on the roster come 2025 and beyond.

Diaz is the only closer in baseball on a $100 million deal, and even with a recent rough patch, we can expect the 30-year-old to remain in the back-end of the bullpen for the Mets for years to come.

Beyond those three, Francisco Alvarez is the closest thing the Mets have to core player, as there is great belief that the 22-year-old catcher can be a mainstay behind the dish in New York.

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When it comes to Alonso, the Mets have to decide if he is a core member worth doubling down on for the second half of his career.

Alonso has the chance to go down as one of the greatest players in Mets franchise history, as he has already clubbed his way to the inner-circle of the all-time home run list, trailing only Strawberry, Wright and Piazza, just 47 home runs from the Mets record.

Funny enough, had the Mets manipulated his service time back in 2019, Alonso might have ended up with the all-time record before he hit free agency. At least the Mets will always have his rookie HR record to look back on if he ends up with a different team.

Nobody has hit more home runs, or has driven in more runs than Pete Alonso since he debuted in 2019. That fact is a testament not only to Alonso’s consistency as a slugger and run producer, but also to his durability. He has checked the boxes every step of the way across his Mets career, both on and off the field.

For better or worse, Alonso has been the face of this core. But with the team falling so greatly from their 101-win peak back in 2022, the “Polar Bear” could turn into the fall guy. Even though he has arguably been the most productive player on the Mets, specifically from an offensive prospective.

If the Mets want to make a wholesale change to the identity of their team, they will take advantage of the opportunity to deal Alonso at the deadline. Deciding whether Alonso is part of the problem or the solution is something that will weigh on this front office for every day of the next seven weeks until the deadline.

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Is There a New Core Developing in New York?

So far in 2024, there have been four young players who have played very prominent roles on the Mets at various points during the season. We already mentioned Francisco Alvarez, who was the Mets starting catcher on Opening Day.

Alvarez unfortunately missed just over seven weeks due a thumb injury that required surgery, but was finally back in the starting lineup last night. In his rookie season, Alvarez blasted 25 home runs, while receiving high-marks for his receiving behind the dish. He already ranked in our top 10 catchers in baseball, despite only having the one season under his belt prior to 2024.

Beyond Alvarez, Brett Baty also started on Opening Day, playing third base for the Mets. Baty has shown great improvements with the glove so far this year, but inconsistent results offensively have forced him out of an everyday role and back to Triple-A.

The former top prospect is sure to return to the majors in short order, where he will be in a fight for playing time with another former top prospect who has really shined as of late.

Since his debut in 2022, Mark Vientos has struggled to get consistent playing time at the big league level due to his lack of a position defensively. The 24-year-old has played over 200 games in Triple-A, as he was always behind Baty on the MLB depth chart and never got consistent run at either first base or DH.

With Baty’s offensive struggles, Vientos finally got his chance and has capitalized on it, hitting .320/.381/.587, with a .968 OPS and 15 RBIs in 23 games played. Not only has he swung that bat well, but Vientos has held his own defensively so far, which has been a great surprise for the Mets.

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Still, there is doubt about his ability to hold down the position long-term, especially since Baty has flashed plus defense at the hot corner throughout this season. If Baty can find his stroke by the end of the season, and Vientos can continue to produce, the Mets may just have two more pieces to build around, along with Alvarez.

The question would be how can you keep two third basemen in Baty and Vientos in the lineup, and that ultimately brings you back around to Alonso.

Many evaluators have felt that Vientos’ position in the big leagues should be first base, but Alonso has blocked him from ever getting the opportunity to show that. Now there is a world where Alonso and Vientos can play together, and we are living in that world right now.

How much the Mets still believe in both Vientos and Baty could say a lot about what they do at the deadline. If they have full faith that the corner infield spots are in secure hands moving forward with Vientos and Baty, they can more aggressively shop Alonso. If they have doubts about either player, there could be room for Alonso yet.

The Mets could deal J.D. Martinez at the deadline to clear DH at-bats for Vientos, or even Alonso, then make their decision on their star first baseman this offseason. This would give the Mets an evaluation period where all three of Alonso, Vientos and Baty could share the lineup.

It has been made very clear that the Mets are trying to win this year, but have their eyes squarely set to the future. We have seen the first of what could be many top pitching prospects arrive in Queens this year with Christian Scott, who just ranked No. 25 in our latest top 100 update.

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A suddenly pitching-rich farm system, which also includes top 50 prospect Brandon Sproat, has the promise to create a staff that can really contend in a couple of years, the Mets just have to find the right pieces to compliment them in their starting lineup.

We know Lindor, Nimmo and Alvarez will be there, but anything can truly happen with the other six spots in the Mets lineup long-term.

Which Core Do the Mets Believe in?

When it comes to Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo, the Mets have already proven that they believe in them as core players, handing over lucrative nine-figure deals. The same can be said with Edwin Diaz. Now all eyes are on Alonso as the final member of this “core four”.

Moving forward, you could look at Alvarez, Baty, Vientos and Scott as a new “core four”, with top prospects like Brandon Sproat, Jett Williams, Drew Gilbert and Luisangel Acuña as the next group who will get their chance.

Really though, when it comes to the Mets choice between cores, the answer does not have to be one or the other. Ultimately it is about finding which pieces from each wave that can be part of a core that can learn to win together moving forward.

If the Mets love and believe in their team, they can retain their players, sell off their rentals and set sights on brighter days when the best of their farm system joins the ranks next season.

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With Juan Soto being a free agent pipe-dream, the Mets may not find a better bat to sign in this upcoming class than Alonso, which could motivate them to do everything they can to retain him long-term. Or they could lean into their youth, give the reigns to Baty and Vientos at the corners, while waiting for the next big fish in free agency.

Is Pete Alonso a core player for the New York Mets?

He certainly has been since 2019, but when it comes to the future, all we can do is wait to find out.