1. Pete Alonso, 2019.
What was perhaps the most memorable spring training performance concluded with a franchise-altering decision that we now face in 2024. When Van Wagenen became general manager in October 2018, the Mets had many names that could play first base, but none were guaranteed the everyday role. Alonso was coming off a minor league season in which he hit 36 home runs and 119 RBI. He became a top-50 prospect on the MLB Pipeline and figured to earn an opportunity to become the franchise's next first baseman. However, Alonso was not on the 40-man roster and the Mets would lose a year of service time (2025) if he made the opening-day roster.
Van Wagenen did everything he could to protect against Alonso not being ready for the major leagues. He signed Jed Lowrie with the idea Todd Frazier would move to first base. Van Wagenen also traded for Robinson Cano and J.D. Davis, both of whom had first-base experience. Lastly, Smith remained a factor to breakout still at just 24 years old. The only thing Alonso could do was force himself onto the roster.
Alonso concluded the most important spring training of his career with a bang, hitting .352 with 4 home runs and 11 RBI. Not only did he prove the power in his swing is legitimate, but Alonso quieted the critics by showing he was no 'butcher' at first base. Van Wagenen made the most successful decision of his front office tenure by selecting Alonso's contract on opening day. While this decision will make Alonso a free agent in 2024 as opposed to 2025, he won NL Rookie of the Year in 2019 and set the major league record with 53 home runs in his first season. With everything working against the 24-year-old phenom, Alonso's spring training performance forced the Mets' hand in starting his career right from opening day.