Mets owner Steve Cohen speaks to the media before a...

Mets owner Steve Cohen speaks to the media before a game against the Brewers at Citi Field on March 29. Credit: Jim McIsaac

LONDON — As the Mets mull their trade-deadline situation, which owner Steve Cohen really doesn’t want to talk about yet, he cautioned that deciding whether to trade away key players for a second summer in a row is “not black and white.”

He used that characterization in the context of an uncertain market and what other clubs might be willing to give up for, say, Pete Alonso or Luis Severino or Harrison Bader.

But it applies in other ways as well. Trading Alonso, a homegrown fan-favorite slugger and face of the franchise who will be a free agent after the season, isn’t the same as trading any other player. Choosing to pay down outgoing contracts for the sake of a better return, as the Mets did last year, isn’t as simple when Cohen has been open about wanting to reel in payroll. And deciding whether to be a seller at all is trickier in this era of expanded playoffs, when mediocrity often is good enough.

“You don’t know what you’re going to get back,” Cohen said Sunday at London Stadium. “You don’t know. What if the return that you got is kind of marginal? So the decisions are not black and white. We’re not there yet. We’ll evaluate it when we get there.”

That last point was the one Cohen emphasized most during a 15-minute news conference before the Mets’ second of two games against the Phillies in the London Series.

He acknowledged the obvious, that the Mets have fallen woefully short of expectations. But he presented himself as optimistic that “this team has got a good run in them” — using the same phrasing that president of baseball operations David Stearns did almost a month ago.

Since then, the Mets have decidedly not gone on a run. But maybe they will, Cohen said.

“We got a long way to go and a lot can happen over a relatively short period of time,” he said. “Listen, I know everybody is focused on the trade deadline, right? That’s all anybody wants to talk about. We got a lot of games to play. Let’s not get focused on what’s so far out. Let’s get focused on what’s happening now. We gotta win a game, we got to chip away.

“Obviously, nine games to get to .500. What are we, four games out of the wild card? We shouldn’t be proud of that, right? We’re still nine games under .500. It gives you the opportunity to make the season a success. That’s the way I’m looking at it.”

The Mets indeed began Sunday four games out of a playoff spot. But they also had the third-worst record in the National League, ahead of only the Rockies and Marlins.

Cohen said he considered the Mets’ failure to date a product of “the variability of human performance.” He praised first-year manager Carlos Mendoza, said “the culture is good” in the clubhouse and even found reason to believe because of the Mets’ horrendous recent inability to hold late leads.

On May 24, Cohen called the team’s run of poor play “mind-boggling.” He said Sunday he was referring to the frequency with and fashion in which they blow it.

“How we were losing, it was unusual,” Cohen said. “You can say, well, if we didn’t lose those games, we’d be in a totally different place. But I think what it says is that was unusual. It’s probably not going to continue. And therefore you can have reason for optimism.”

Nonetheless, barring a drastic turnaround, Cohen, Stearns and the Mets will have little choice but to consider another sell-off.

Sure, the Mets can remain technically kind of, sort of close in the wild-card race. But it might not be enough to stave off the breaking up of the roster — especially in what Cohen called an “evaluation phase,” the first year under Stearns.

“The goal, obviously, is not just to get in [to the playoffs],” Stearns said recently. “You want to get in and advance and have a run and play deep into October. So the evaluation ultimately is do we have a team that we think is capable of doing that.”

Cohen isn’t ready to go there yet.

“I’ll say it again: a lot of games left,” he said. “I actually think the team is starting to show signs.”


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