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When is it OK for the Mets to start trading players?

Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets

Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets has a laugh from the dugout against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on Sunday, May 8, 2011 in the Queens borough of New York City.(Photo by Jim McIsaac) Credit: Photo by Jim McIsaac

With so much debate over which players the Mets will trade this season – and when they might do it – the bigger question is this: At what point do the Mets decide if a playoff berth is out of reach?

As of Monday morning, May 9, the Mets trail the Phillies by 7.5 games in the National League East and stand 5.5 games behind the Marlins in the wild-card race. Hardly an insurmountable deficit, but with 83 days left before the non-waiver trade deadline, what do the Mets have to learn about their club before pulling the trigger on deals that may present themselves?

What size deficit should prompt the Mets to throw in the towel by July 31? Would five games be too much to overcome? I’d say that’s the cutoff point. If the Mets are within five games of either the division lead or wild card, GM Sandy Alderson would find himself backed into a difficult corner.

As badly as they want to trade pending free agents such as Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran to save money and get building blocks for the future, that would be impossible to sell to their fan base – and make Citi Field a ghost town for the second half of the season. Much worse than it has been during different points in the last month or so.

Obviously, if the Mets are facing a double-digit deficit in the NL East, and the wild-card race becomes a lost cause, then it would be foolish for them to hold onto coveted players headed for free agency. What’s the point? Especially in the case of Reyes, who could be re-signed if – and this is a humongous IF – the Mets come up with some serious cash after the season. Reyes truly likes playing in New York, and I wouldn’t rule out a return, if the money makes sense, of course.

If the Mets are going to be strapped for cash in the near future, and it certainly looks that way, that’s even more of a reason to deal players for young, cheap prospects a year or two away from the majors. And pitching now appears to be a more serious need in the wake of Tommy John surgery for Jenrry Mejia and a lack of starters that could be considered close to the majors.


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