“Watching Jerry Manuel trying to win the division with this bullpen makes David Blaine’s stunts look mundane by comparison” wrote Newsday’s David Lennon earlier today, and while I don’t know of the Mets skipper locking himself in a box while trying to kick heroin at the same time, Lennon’s colleague Ken Davidoff suggests there’s little help on the way…next spring.

The Mets regard the $10.5 million they owe Billy Wagner next year as a sunk cost. Insurance won’t cover it because Wagner’s left elbow problems were a pre-existing condition; he had season-ending surgery in 2000.

Teams store away money for circumstances like these. How could they not, given the preponderance of injuries?

So it’s not really the presence of Wagner that will keep the Mets out of the Francisco Rodriguez sweepstakes. It’s K-Rod himself — or, to be more specific, the Angels closer’s market.

The Mets “won’t be signing him,” one person informed of the Mets’ thinking said of Rodriguez. Having already taken a significant risk in committing six years and $137.5 million to Johan Santana, the team doesn’t want to enter another record-setting marriage with a pitcher. K-Rod figures to match or exceed Mariano Rivera’s annual average value of $15 million, for more than the three years the Yankees gave Rivera last winter.

The Mets probably also will pass on Brian Fuentes, the only other free-agent closer of note. Instead, they intend to be creative with their closer role.

I’m fully in favor of the Mets doing something other than committing a record contract to a reliever who might break down in two years or less. But I’d feel a bit better if “creative” wasn’t a euphemism for dumpster diving. It doesn’t get much more “creative” than giving Luis Ayala, Brian Stokes and Joe Smith such key roles in what’s supposed to be a pennant race.