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Mystery abounds as Mets creep up on trade deadline

Marlon Byrd bats in the second inning of

Marlon Byrd bats in the second inning of a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. (July 22, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

A little tasseography -- that divination method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds or wine sediments -- could be in order in these last nine days for baseball's trading deadline.

Because, whatever hints Mets manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson might or might not be dropping about the future makeup of their outfield are settling nothing.

For weeks, veteran rightfielder Marlon Byrd's name has been floated as a possible trade chip, a move that would have ramifications for the two 24-year-old lads who lately have been sharing centerfield, Juan Lagares and Kurt Nieuwenhuis.

Lagares' 7-for-10, two-double, one-homer, five-RBI tear earned him National League player of the week, yet he was replaced in Monday night's lineup against the Atlanta Braves by Nieuwenhuis, who has hit .293 (12-for-41) with two homers and eight RBIs since July 2.

Lagares will get his playing time, Collins said, "but if we go back to when we started playing good" -- the Mets are 16-10 since June 19 -- "one guy who's a reason for that is Kurt Nieuwenhuis.

"It's a nice situation to be in when you've got young players you're trying to get in the lineup," Collins said, and a primary development which could change the current platoon "is when you're out of options.

"You know what? We might be trying to develop two outfielders here. You look down the road at what's going to happen, and you certainly don't know, but there may be a situation where you look up one of these days and both those guys are out there at one position or the other."

The departure of Byrd, who is hitting a solid .277 and leads the team in both home runs (17) and runs batted in (56), would be just such a situation.

To lose Byrd would "certainly be taking one of your better bats out of the lineup," Collins said. "We're not going to ask Juan Lagares , all of a sudden, to be the run producer Marlon Byrd is, or even Kurt Nieuwenhuis . Hopefully, Marlon's still here, but if he's not, someone else has to pick it up, because he's done such a good job."

Alderson told reporters before Monday night's game: "Sometimes, things [i.e., trades] happen early, sometimes they happen late, but very seldom does anything happen in between. We're kind of in that in-between period right now. So as we move closer to the deadline, things will pick up. But we've had very little in the way of conversations."

That could mean Byrd's relative lack of value in the marketplace. Or not. (Tea leaves or coffee grounds?)

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