Alonso On Opening Day Roster Doesn’t Overcome Team’s Real Issues
One of the narratives which is beginning to emerge is the Mets need Pete Alonso to be on their Opening Day roster because the Mets are a win-now team. Considering how tight the National League East race is going to be the argument is it’s worth carrying him for 16 days and foregoing control over him for the 2025 season. In essence, those 16 days are worth much more than one year of Alonso’s prime.
Putting aside the fact Dominic Smith could potentially be a better option than Alonso to open the season, especially with the Mets facing Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg twice, the question is why has Alonso become ground zero for the Mets doing everything they can do to win?
Since the 2017 All Star Break, Jason Vargas has a 6.04 ERA, and opposing batters have hit .278/.351/.506 against him. At the moment, he is slated for 30 plus starts. Behind him, the Mets pitching depth constitutes a group of pitchers who have posted an ERA over 5.00 as a starter over the last year.
It would seem to be contradictory to say every game counts as a justification to play Alonso 14 games while trotting out well below league average pitching for over 30 games. They’re doing this despite Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Keuchel still being free agents.
The Mets entered the offseason with a need for a center fielder. They traded for Keon Broxton, who hit .179/.281/.410 last year while playing in a very hitter friendly park. That would be the only outfielder they added to the 40 man roster this offseason. This left them to consider playing Juan Lagares more, a player who has averaged 68 games over the past three years.
This has led the Mets to consider playing Jeff McNeil in left field, a position he played all of 17.0 innings in Triple-A last year. This has forced Brandon Nimmo into center, a position the Mets had purportedly decided he shouldn’t play at the Major League level. A -5 DRS in 434.2 Major League innings there seem to substantiate the Mets previous decision on that front.
It may not matter anyway because Spring Training injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie, two players who are over 33 years old, have forced McNeil to third base, a position the Mets did not want him to play last year. Of course, this puts the Mets back towards relying on Lagares and Broxton, which they clearly did not want to do.
Oddly enough, for a Mets team putting a premium focus on 14 games, they ignored the other 148 when it came to building their outfield. In fact, they stood aside when the Braves signed Nick Markakis and the Phillies signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen. Don’t forget the Braves also added Josh Donaldson too, which is something to consider if the Mets wanted to go the route of putting McNeil in left field.
The overriding point here is the Mets ignored and cut corners on various part of their roster. They’re gambling with over 30 starts from their rotation. They’re playing an infielder in the outfield hoping he will be able to get up to speed quickly gambling on 162 games at that position. Overall, the Mets are gambling at two key positions over the course of the season.
Yet somehow, the Mets are potentially going to tell us they desperately need those 14 games out of Alonso at first base because, you know, those 14 games at first base matter much more than the fifth starter spot and a starting outfield position over the course of full season.