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The Mets are predictably keeping their options open regarding both the players who could help the club at the trade deadline and the amount of salary they can absorb.
General manager Billy Eppler, speaking to reporters Saturday for the first time since May 17, did not quite narrow down the possibilities for the Mets at the Aug. 2 trade deadline. He did say he desires hitters who can help score runs and pitchers who can help keep runs off the board.
“I would like to be an equal-opportunity buyer,” the general manager said before the Mets’ 7-3 loss to the Rangers at Citi Field. “So whether that is something that helps with run prevention — great. If it helps with run production — great. Let’s try to grow those numbers as far apart as we can and be open to anything.
“I don’t want to be beholden to a shopping list.”
If a list existed, it might include a slugger who could serve as the designated hitter, which has been a weak spot for the first three months of the season. The Mets have struggled more against lefty pitching than righty pitching, so they might prefer a righty bat.
Every team interested in buying can say it should target more starting pitching, though the Mets have Max Scherzer returning this week and could have Jacob deGrom back by the end of the month.
The bullpen could use another arm or two, and the lefty relievers, Chasen Shreve and Joely Rodriguez, have been underwhelming. Asked if it is important to have a reliable lefty — or whether any pitcher who could get lefties out would suffice — Eppler said: “It’s indifferent, either one. Again, whichever one we think is going to impact the most.”
Eppler, who said initial conversations have begun among executives looking to trade, reiterated that owner Steve Cohen has not indicated there is a salary threshold he will not exceed.
Cohen told The Post in mid-June that he was not “ruling out anything” in terms of payroll. The collective bargaining agreement features a new $290 million luxury-tax tier — nicknamed the “Cohen tax” — and the Mets are right around that number, according to Spotrac. A pricey acquisition would surely take them over that threshold.
“I think one thing I’ve kind of learned in my time with Steve so far is he’s opportunistic,” Eppler said. “So if I can take him opportunities and kind of present the ‘why’ behind it — the ‘why’ it makes sense — he’s signed off on everything so far.
“He likes to know what the market looks like and likes to be aware of opportunity.”
Eppler, who rarely speaks in absolutes, did not completely rule out a trade involving the Mets’ top prospects, but he made it sound as if the cream of the farm system — notably, top catching prospect Francisco Alvarez — will not be dealt at the deadline.
“You don’t know what could come up. But I think there’s a number of players that can be really difficult to wrestle away from us,” Eppler said. “I don’t ever say never. But it’s really hard to envision some kind of scenario where you would consider those things.”