In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on May 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Mets fans will never see number 7 painted over a pinstriped circle on the outfield wall of Citi Field next to No. 41 and No. 37. Jose Reyes might be playing in Citi next year but it’ll be in a visiting jersey. Ditto for Carlos Beltran.

Owner Fred Wlpon’s comments in The New Yorker were the buzz in New York but not inaccurate.

The Mets are in last place WITH Reyes and Beltran. The only choice is to shop them now for prospects. Given Wilpon’s financial distress, he can’t afford not to, especially with Reyes seeking big dollars. Consider that Reyes is injury-prone. In ’09, he played 36 games and in ’10, he played 46. Beltran – while hitting big so far – is old and hurting, still unable to run at full speed, thus the move to right field.

Wilpon should say he’s building for the future and spending little in the process. Fans would buy it. Reyes will bring a can’t-miss prospect or two. Beltran will bring an immediate contributor.

The Mets desperately need pitching and catching. Johan Santana is a question mark upon his return. Mike Pelfrey is a No. 4 starter at best. Jon Niese is talented for a few innings, then implodes. R. A. Dickey has been figured out by hitters, as evidenced by his ballooning ERA. Behind the plate, neither Josh Thole or Ronny Paulino are long-term answers.

In left, Jason Bay remains in a funk. He missed the start of the year with an oblique and recently, may miss more time due to a calf. Think Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken ever beefed about a sore muscle?

David Wright – superstar or not – will be at third for a long time and Ike Davis will anchor first. Angel Pagan is the center fielder, Daniel Murphy can play somewhere and Reuben Tejada might be the choice at second. The team has core elements that cost little – perfect investments for the Wilpon portfolio.

Sandy Alderson, not Omar Minaya is doing the shopping, so contracts will be frugally tendered. The focus is on scouting and the minor leagues, not the big-name splashes of the past – a la Bobby Bonilla, Mo Vaughn and Cliff Floyd. The Mets will let other spenders pay the Jason Bays and Johan Santanas.

Santana won two Cy Youngs for the Twins but has never won 20 in a season for the Mets. In three seasons in Flushing, he’s averaged 13 wins. Bay slugged 36 HRs and drove in 119 RBI with the Red Sox in 2009. This season, he’s projected to sock 8 HR and drive in 32 runs – all for $16M per season.

Wilpon was right, just ill-timed in his comments. The Mets have taken so many punches lately, this one put the club’s psyche on the proverbial canvas. After the smelling salts wear off, Reyes and Beltran will be gone and the team will be fortified with prospects. Given that Wilpon isn’t going free-agent shopping, how else do you climb out of the cellar?

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