New York Mets pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz...

New York Mets pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey walk from the bullpen to the dugout before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on Sunday, July 12, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Mets have a staff stuffed with ace-caliber starters, and another, the rehabbing Zack Wheeler, waiting in the wings. Some would suggest this is a surplus, a reservoir to be tapped for a shortstop, a centerfielder, or both.

Then there is the Cardinals' John Mozeliak, who had a rough week at the GM meetings without ever leaving the Boca Club and Resort. Actually, it was more like a nightmarish 48 hours.

In that short span, the Cardinals lost top pitching prospect Alex Reyes -- ticketed for a 2016 debut -- to a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse, his second offense. The next day, Lance Lynn underwent Tommy John surgery, knocking him out for the season and instantly subtracting the 30-plus starts he provided each of the past four years.

"You have to understand that with pitching, there is inherent risk," Mozeliak said. "The moment you think you have enough, you're probably wrong."

Mozeliak figured he had enough last November, so he took his shot, trading Shelby Miller to the Braves for Jason Heyward. Less than a month into the 2015 season, on April 25, Adam Wainwright went down with a torn Achilles tendon and missed all but the final week.

The Cardinals, an incredibly deep organization, still managed to win a third straight division crown before getting bounced by the upstart Cubs. But having that level of insurance is rare, and with John Lackey's contract up, combined with this week's misfortune, Mozeliak finds himself in a place he never thought he'd be: perusing the free-agent market for pitching help.

"How long can you take the body blows?" Mozeliak said.

See how quick that changes? The Mets aren't stupid. They know the reason for their surprising World Series run, and it might be suicidal to tamper with that winning formula to any significant degree. Would they prefer to upgrade at shortstop? Or add another power arm to the bullpen? Of course. With the aces the Mets are holding, all they'd have to do is dial the phone.

At the GM meetings, it didn't even require that. The Mets' contingent had plenty of conversations during their four-day stay, but all of them pretty much began and ended with the names Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard or Matz. Assistant GM John Ricco counts Wheeler in that group as well, but perhaps to a lesser degree, considering the Mets already traded him once -- last July in the collapsed deal for Carlos Gomez.

Ricco spent this week telling other GMs that no, the Mets' young guns aren't in play at this point. "Just in case they want to hear it from us that we're probably not moving them," Ricco said. "And 'very unlikely' is what we've been telling them."

Teams don't like to use the term "untouchable" -- never say never, because there's always the possibility of an offer you can't refuse. But we recall Sandy Alderson's initial reluctance in dealing Michael Fullmer -- the next big arm in the Mets' pipeline -- for a three-month rental of Yoenis Cespedes, a move that went against his meticulous rebuild of the farm system.

Even though now Alderson says it was "absolutely" the right decision, stating that the Mets don't get to the World Series without Cespedes, he also conveyed the importance of stockpiling young arms. Not necessarily as trade chips, but insurance against the fragile nature of pitching these days.

And we're not just talking about Tommy John surgery, which Harvey, deGrom and Matz already have endured. It could be anything -- shoulders, knees, a freak liner hit to the mound. Or even a drug suspension.

Trade one of the Big Four, and the Mets' greatest strength immediately becomes weaker -- as well as more vulnerable should something go awry. As Ricco mentioned Thursday before heading to the airport, the Mets got to the World Series by riding the Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada tandem at shortstop. We doubt the Mets would be able to make the same claim next year if we're talking about a Big Three in spring training, with Wheeler not expected back until July, at the earliest.

Hey, things happen.

Just ask the Cardinals.