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There is no such thing as a 'core' for the Mets or any MLB team

Perhaps the most salient, and even mildly subversive, point that Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns made during his public availability on Tuesday was when a reporter asked about the Mets’ core of players and their lack of success over several seasons.

“I think it’s difficult to judge entire eras of baseball, or entire season, by one relatively small grouping of players,” Stearns said. “So I’m more focused on how we put together the entirety of the team and, really, the entirety of an organization that allows us to compete for championships on an annual basis.”

This was salient because it underscored that there are too many variables around a team, especially across multiple years, to judge whether a team has a core, who is in it, and if they are a quote-unquote winning core.

And it was mildly subversive because, in his quiet way, Stearns was contradicting an element of conventional baseball wisdom so pervasive that few question it.

Let’s say that the Mets’ core, if such a thing were to exist for any team (which it does not; the concept is too reductive), is Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and Edwin Diaz. Are those players the reason that the Mets haven’t made it past the Wild Card round since 2015?

Of course not. They work hard, care about winning, and in most cases are positive contributors to clubhouse culture. Lindor in particular brings authentic leadership qualities. Something is wrong with these Mets squads, but the players listed above have often helped the team win.

The lack of success, then, is due to broader factors. Management, supporting players, luck, injuries -- none of these reflect on the members of the “core.”

This leads us to Alonso, subject of widespread speculation ahead of the trade deadline, which will only intensify if the Mets continue to lose.

When Stearns first took this job in the fall, according to people with direct knowledge of internal discussions, he was not interested in trading Alonso.

His predecessor, Billy Eppler, had answered the phone for Alonso-related calls in advance of the July trade deadline, but no talks about the star first baseman gained traction. A deal was never close, or close to close.

When Stearns arrived, he decided to take the entire idea off the table. The Mets were trying to construct a contending team, not rebuild.

But if the players fail to turn this season around, Stearns’ position will obviously have to evolve. Any GM or POBO for a team out of the race owes it to the organization to gauge the market for free agents-to-be.

As owner Steve Cohen told me earlier this month, and Stearns reiterated Tuesday, the Mets still hope to make the playoffs. They want to make a run and become trade deadline buyers. The front office still considers that possible (consider that without Diaz’s unforeseen blown saves, we’d be looking at the .500ish roster that the Mets projected themselves to be).

But if the team is still playing poorly in a month, Stearns will have to engage in trade discussions about Alonso.

Even then, a trade would not be inevitable. Right-handed power hitters do not tend to be the types of players who fetch needle-moving prospects as midseason rentals. It’s no sure thing that the Mets would obtain an exciting enough return for Alonso to make the trauma of moving him worthwhile.

There is a perception around the Mets that trading Alonso for a few months would not hurt their efforts to re-sign him as a free agent, if they want to do so. That can be tricky. But it’s also a problem for a later date.

For now, the only way that the Mets can make trading Alonso an impossibility is to firmly assert themselves into the Wild Card race. Otherwise, Stearns will have an unpleasant but necessary job to do.

Just don’t call it breaking up the core.