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Mets unlikely to make major deal before deadline

Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler delivers a pitch

Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the second inning of an MLB baseball game at Citi Field on Saturday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

WASHINGTON — On trade-deadline eve, as Mets executives worked the phones and the players enjoyed a day off in the capital, a lack of imminent moves hinted at a potentially slow deadline day to come.

Trade talks are always fluid, particularly at this time of year. But the Mets remained largely in their status quo Monday, sources said, making it increasingly possible that they will get through the non-waiver trade deadline at 4 p.m. Tuesday without another move.

That wouldn’t be for lack of trying, as Mets decision-makers huddled in New York into this week. Usually, when the Mets are on the road, at least one-third of the interim general manager triumvirate — John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya — and director of baseball research and development TJ Barra travel with them. With potential trades taking priority, that quartet stayed back, and front-office faces a bit lower on the hierarchy took their place during the weekend in Pittsburgh.

“We have some pieces that people are checking in on, especially our pitching,” Ricco said Friday after the Mets sent Asdrubal Cabrera to Philadelphia. “We haven’t made a deal yet, but we’ve had a lot of dialogue.”

Mets trade candidates can be separated into two categories: relatively high-profile (a group occupied primarily by Zack Wheeler) and lower-profile (including Devin Mesoraco and Jose Bautista). For all the speculation about Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard — including the Mets saying they were open to offers on the pitchers — there has been no sign that the organization has come close to going through with a deal of that magnitude.

With Wheeler, the Mets lack the urgency that triggered the Jeurys Familia and Cabrera trades this month. Unlike those two, Wheeler is under team control via arbitration for 2019, when the Mets say they plan to contend for the playoffs. (The same is true of Wilmer Flores, Steven Matz and others, who also are theoretical trade pieces but have received much less buzz in recent days.) Wheeler will be cheap, too, with his injury-suppressed $1.9-million salary this season inherently limiting what he’ll be paid next year.

Multiple reports — before and after Wheeler’s six scoreless innings and game-winning double Sunday against the Pirates — said the Mets had received plenty of interest in him but that none of the teams met the Mets’ asking price.

Wheeler (4.11 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) consistently has expressed a desire to stay with the Mets, and manager Mickey Callaway has said he prefers that Wheeler remain with the team. Callaway’s input matters to Ricco & Co.

“The things we have to consider is at the start of the year, we challenged Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland to help some of our young pitchers turn a corner, Zack being one of them, a guy who has been injured the last few years,” Ricco said. “As we sit here today, he has really blossomed into one of the better pitchers on our staff if not in the league itself.

“When you have one year of control, you start to get to the point where you have to consider if it’s better to keep him or maybe move him in a trade. That’s where we are right now.”

Wheeler said Sunday: “I want to be here. We’ve got a good core group of guys, and the starting staff is pretty good. I want to be a part of that.”

With Mesoraco and Bautista, it’s less complicated. Both players were midseason additions and are impending free agents, so anything the Mets get in return — be it a minor-leaguer or international bonus pool space — would be gravy.

A source familiar with the major-league trade scene said that although Mesoraco has drawn interest, the Mets probably would have to wait for his market to develop next month (i.e., if a contender suddenly needs a catcher, though he would have to clear waivers). Bautista, who is more versatile defensively and productive offensively, hasn’t drawn much interest.

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