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If Mets won’t spend, are they serious about winning?

If the Mets were serious about upgrading their bullpen, even if they’re not going to take my advice and sign Wade Davis, they would have done what the Cubs did. They would have struck quickly to sign Brandon Morrow to a two-year deal.

Instead Sandy Alderson is feigning shock at the cost of such a move, $21 million for two years, while likening the bullpen market to an “inferno” that is best avoided for the time being.

He wouldn’t even pony up for Bryan Shaw, the guy Mickey Callaway wanted, apparently deciding that the three years and $27 million the Rockies signed the ex-Indians reliever for on Tuesday, was out of the Mets’ price range.

Meanwhile, perhaps as a way to circumvent the inferno, Alderson is at least considering trading Matt Harvey for a reliever.

Mets will likely keep Matt Harvey as GM listening to his manager

Is it any wonder Mets fans are once again disgusted with the state of the franchise?

Not that I have much faith in a big bounce-back from Harvey, but wasn’t Callaway hired as manager largely to see if he could work a little magic with the former ace, as well as some of the other starting pitchers whose ballyhooed potential has been derailed by injuries and under-performance?

The Mets have come this far with Harvey. Isn’t it worth finding out what he can do in a season in which he’ll be ultra-motivated as he heads for free agency?

If they were willing to sign a starting pitcher like Lance Lynn, which they need anyway, then trading Harvey for a reliever would be more understandable.

Mets may not have defined bullpen roles next season

On Wednesday Alderson backed off the notion of trading Harvey a bit, pointing out that Callaway and new pitching coach Dave Eiland want him back.

With the Mets willing to move Matt Harvey for a reliever instead of spending on a free agent, it shows that saving money is still a bigger priority than improving the team.

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

But the larger point is that the Mets are acting as if they have a surplus of starting pitchers on whom they can count next season, as if Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz are suddenly sure things to stay healthy and produce, as if Robert Gsellman wasn’t a bust last year, as if Seth Lugo doesn’t have a partial tear in his elbow ligament.

What is going on here, anyway?

Two months ago Alderson agreed with the common logic that his team should acquire another starting pitcher, and this week he says that’s No. 4 on his three-item checklist of priorities.

Sandy Alderson: Mets won’t jump into ‘inferno’ of RP market

What, they’re counting on Rafael Montero now?

The problem, of course, is that Alderson has multiple holes to fill and, as usual, not enough money to be a big player in the free-agent market.

Why that’s the case is harder to understand this winter, however. The Mets had some $60 million come off the payroll in expired contracts — more if you include the money they saved via their salary-dump trades last July and August.

They’ve collected significant insurance money on David Wright’s contract the last two seasons, and probably will again in 2018.

Mets talking to Rangers, Orioles about Matt Harvey

And the owners, Fred and Jeff Wilpon, have to know, after the excitement created by the 2015 and ’16 seasons, that fans will fill Citi Field if they put a legitimate contender on the field again.

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With several star players, including Noah Syndergaard, still in place, the Mets should be looking to capitalize on a weak division.

(Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Why the Mets are trying do this on the cheap this winter, with Alderson giving every indication the payroll will be significantly lower than last season, is hard to fathom.

The pieces are still in place to win immediately. I’m convinced Yoenis Cespedes will have a big season, now that the Mets are actually going to make him drink water and stay hydrated, as they’ve seem to finally be discovering the wonders of modern injury-prevention techniques.

In addition, there’s no reason to believe Michael Conforto won’t be an impact player again, as he recovers from that freakish shoulder injury.

Mets have checked in with Rays about closer Alex Colome

Likewise, Noah Syndergaard should come back from that lat muscle tear and be a dominant starter again, and Jacob deGrom is proving to be both durable and elite.

The Mets even have the makings of a solid back end of the bullpen, with Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, and Jerry Blevins.

And though Amed Rosario proved to be a bit of a wild-swinger in his first taste of big-league pitching, I still believe the kid shortstop is going to be a star.

If only the Mets would spend to fill in the missing pieces. Adding a durable starter like Lynn would do wonders for the certainty they could expect from their starting rotation.

Mets have talked to teams about trading Matt Harvey: sources

Instead they’re focused on getting a second baseman, a reliever, and a Jay Bruce-type outfielder/first baseman at least partly to give them protection if Dom Smith doesn’t hit.

The Mets may not want to hand out a four-year deal to Bryan Shaw, but there are other quality options they should open the checkbook for.

The Mets may not want to hand out a four-year deal to Bryan Shaw, but there are other quality options they should open the checkbook for.

(Phil Long/AP)

OK, for starters I’d gamble that Smith will be at least adequate for them and use that money to add another impact player, ideally a center fielder like Lorenzo Cain.

Enough already, after all, with trying to wish Juan Lagares into an everyday center fielder; his defense is great but he’s not suddenly going to blossom into an adequate hitter, and he gets hurt every year, anyway.

No less significant, Conforto is better off not worrying about having to play center field, especially coming back from injury.

Alderson: Mets didn’t pursue Stanton due to large contract

In addition, as Alderson admitted this week, he has little in the way of trade-able prospects, because his drafts haven’t produced enough impact talent, which is one more reason to give Smith a chance to blossom.

Even so, the GM has enough to make a deal for Ian Kinsler with the Tigers, who aren’t looking for much other than to dump the $11 million he’s owed next season. At that price Kinsler is worth the gamble on a one-year deal.

As for relievers: How can Alderson be surprised at the cost when the sport is trending in that direction, with bullpens becoming more and more important?

If he’s worried about the volatility of relievers on multi-year deals, then spend on a sure thing like Davis and build a super-pen for this year, with Familia and Ramos heading for free agency anyway.

Five pressing issues for Mets heading into the Winter Meetings

But considering the Mets have made it clear that upgrading the bullpen is a priority, they can’t simply wait out the market in search of a bargain. Nor can they trade Harvey for a reliever as a way of saving money.

After all, do they not see that the weak NL East, with the Marlins now in complete tank mode, offers a path to the post-season for them this year? Do they not see the Phillies and Braves will be contenders again in another year or two?

I guess the better question is: Do they care enough about winning? 

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