We’ve all heard the reports that say the Mets only have $5 million to spend this offseason. I don’t know who said it or their source, but it does make sense since the team has over $130 million committed to its current club.

Regardless of the actual figure, there’s no doubt that the Mets are cash-strapped.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I wouldn’t mind seeing the Mets go through a major rebuilding phase during 2011 if it meant that they would put a consistently competitive team on the field for a while after that.

Look at a team like the Tampa Bay Rays. A full decade of beyond mediocrity has paid off with two division titles and a World Series appearance. The difference between the Mets and the Rays is that the Rays were so bad that they were able to cash in with high draft picks like David Price, B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria.

If you look at the team, there are holes in the starting rotation, bullpen and arguably second base.

The team needs to make a decision moving forward: can they acquire some major pieces with the budget they have or will they be content trying to develop some young talent this season?

They may bring in a veteran starter such as Chris Young or Jeff Francis and maybe even a bullpen arm like a D.J. Carrasco or Lance Cormier.

This would be fine for the short term in hopes that these reclamation projects can bring the Mets back to relevance.

Here’s what we hope might happen.

The Mets may sign a pitcher or two and fill out their roster with some journeymen. They should try to stay afloat until Santana returns, and hopefully he will give the team a shot in the arm. If the team feels it has what it takes, it could look to acquire a front line starting pitcher or big bat for the postseason run.

But the Mets can look at it another way.

The could play out the first two-three months and see where they stand at the All-Star break. If the season is basically a lost cause, they should promote some of their prospects and give these guys some big league experience.

I would much rather see guys like Wilmer Flores, Matt Harvey, Ruben Tejada and Jenrry Mejia learn through their mistakes then guys like Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez struggle, knowing that the latter two have no chance of providing for the future of this team.

If things click early in the season, the young guys may not have a shot. I am an optimist, and if the Mets can get off to a quick start, that’s great. However, they need to be ready to face the facts if things don’t work out.

Five million will not be enough this offseason to acquire all the pieces the Mets need right away. But developing some young talent now could allow the team to either acquire proven talent via trade or will fill some of the roster holes of the next few seasons.

Naturally as a fan, you always want to see your team win. But when you understand that winning consistently takes the proper combination of many different pieces, you realize that when you don’t have the pieces, winning is difficult.

Someday (hopefully soon) when the Mets do win a World Series, we will look back and say that the years of rebuilding were well worth it. I just hope that comes in my lifetime.

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