By Rich Coutinho
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The first 41 games of the season have been a real roller coaster ride for Sandy Alderson. The new man in charge has been forced to deal with a plethora of injury issues and was blindsided by the latest setback — a David Wright stress fracture.

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But through it all, it has become obvious that the Mets are playing well as we end the first quarter of the season. And in a watered down NL wild card race, that could mean he will have an interesting decision come July 31st.

The players who Alderson may have thought of moving are arguably the team’s three best players right now — Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and K-Rod.

The Reyes case is an interesting one. As each day passes, you get the sense Alderson appreciates more and more the value of the effervescent Mets catalyst. Clearly, if you read between the lines, you can see he has begun to get the Reyes “it factor” by the adjectives he uses to describe him — “exciting,” “potent,” and “a game changer.”  Back in spring training, he used phrases like “we’ll just wait and see.” It seems watching him every day has made Alderson more keenly aware of Reyes’ inherent value to the club.

As each day passes, I really believe Reyes will be here in 2012 knowing the fly in the ointment could be team finances. But even that could improve shortly if a minority owner is brought in. And judging by the actions of all of the players involved, including Commissioner Selig, you get the feeling that will occur before the All-Star break.

So that gets us back to the original question: Will the Mets be sellers at the deadline?

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I say no for a number of reasons, including the fact that the NL is devoid of dominant teams aside from the Phillies and Rockies. There is a clear class distinction. Just about every other NL team sits in that second plateau with very little difference between them. 40 games is not a huge sample size but it also can not be ignored as these teams are all the same–incomplete packages with serious deficiencies in one aspect.

The Mets clearly have little starting pitching but possess a very good lineup, coupled with a surprisingly efficient bullpen. They remind me a lot of both the 1997 and 2005 Mets. Those were not playoff teams but stayed in the race for the wild card into the season’s final month — and I honestly think this group could do that.

Those teams, with a break here or there, could have been better — and both landed north of the 85-win benchmark. Coming out of spring training, I thought the Mets were an 85-win team and I still think that they are. The question is are the Mets the team that went 5-13 or are they the team that has gone 14-9 since. The truth likely lies somewhere in between, but my sense is 5-13 was more of an aberration.

What that means is not only will the Mets not be sellers — they might be buyers. Not for high-ticket items, but I could see them adding a small piece for the back end of their rotation. I know the public perception is that will never happen, but it could if the Mets stay in the Wild Card race as we enter July.

And there is always the possibility that an  addition to the roster could be a healthy Johan Santana–which I must admit is remote. Improbable but not as impossible as some of the people who cover this team on a daily basis may have led you to believe.

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Will the Mets be buyers or sellers? Comment away below…