- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Sandy Alderson is sticking with the New York Mets - and he might have some more money to spend.

The team announced a contract extension Tuesday for Alderson that runs through 2017 and gives the general manager a chance to finish the rebuilding project he started four years ago.

“Obviously, we’re not at the point we’d like to be in terms of our won-loss record and the overall success of the team,” Alderson said on a conference call. “I don’t think we’re that far away. I really don’t believe it is going to take a giant leap to get to a playoff-competitive level.”

Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said the club exercised Alderson’s option for next season and added two years to his deal. Wilpon said ownership is pleased with the job Alderson has done, and he has payroll flexibility to continue to improve the team through free agency or trades.

“I don’t know whether there will be a dramatic spike or not. I don’t feel that we will necessarily be constrained by the payroll next year,” Alderson said.

He did confirm that manager Terry Collins will return. Collins is under contract through next season, with an option for 2016.

“He’s done an exceptional job for us, I believe. He’s energetic. He’s passionate; his work ethic is second to none,” Alderson said. “It’s been a pleasure to watch how the team has responded to Terry.”

New York (76-81) needs to win its final five games to avoid a sixth consecutive losing season since moving into Citi Field. Before the season, Alderson challenged the Mets to win 90 games, a number even hard-core fans found overly optimistic.

The Mets are 301-342 under Alderson and Collins.

“We finally have gone through some of these rougher years, where the expectations that we have on ourselves moving into next year should be pretty high,” captain David Wright said in Washington. “I’m very optimistic and excited about what the very near future holds, and I’m glad those two guys will be able to kind of head this ship that’s going the direction that we’re going.”

The 66-year-old Alderson said Tuesday he is grateful for the opportunity to stay on and credited his front-office staff.

“I understand not everything has gone according to plan,” he said. “I do believe we’ve made some progress toward our ultimate goals.”

Since replacing Omar Minaya as GM following the 2010 season, Alderson has pared the payroll from about $133 million that year to less than $92 million on opening day this season, which ranked 19th among 30 major league teams. But a thin farm system has improved under his watch, and the Mets gradually appear to be getting better - at least on the mound.

By trading older players such as Carlos Beltran, R.A. Dickey and Marlon Byrd, Alderson acquired pitcher Zack Wheeler, catcher Travis d’Arnaud, second baseman Dilson Herrera, reliever Vic Black and top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard.

With injured ace Matt Harvey and reliever Bobby Parnell expected back from Tommy John surgery next year, the Mets have the makings of a quality staff that includes Wheeler, NL Rookie of the Year contender Jacob deGrom, setup man Jeurys Familia and young closer Jenrry Mejia.

“Very, very excited,” Collins said before the Mets lost 4-2 to the Nationals. “We’re very, very close. … We’ve got a couple things we’ve got to get better at, but next year we’re going to be in the hunt, there’s no doubt in my mind.”

The offense remains an issue.

Alderson signed Wright to a $138 million, eight-year contract before the 2013 season, and the All-Star third baseman struggled with an aching shoulder this summer during the worst season of his career.

Curtis Granderson, brought in as a free agent, has 19 homers and 62 RBIs after signing a $60 million, four-year deal. Fellow outfielder Chris Young, signed to a $7.25 million, one-year contract, was released in August after batting .205 with eight homers and 28 RBIs.

“Free agency is a crapshoot. And on the other hand, you expect to hit a certain number of times,” Alderson said, acknowledging it’s an area where the Mets need to be “more successful than perhaps we’ve been in the past.”

“The player development side, we’ve done pretty well. We’ve done pretty well in trades. Free agency is problematic - not just for us but for a lot of teams,” he added.

Alderson is expected to be in the market for bats this winter, especially at shortstop and left field. He also has a decision to make about the future of All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy, likely due a hefty raise in arbitration.

Murphy can become a free agent after the 2015 season.

“We’ve got to be more productive offensively, but there are a lot of different ways to get there,” Alderson said.

Alderson was the architect of Oakland teams that won three straight AL pennants from 1988-90 and the 1989 World Series. He also was CEO of the San Diego Padres when they won consecutive NL West titles from 2005-06.

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AP freelance writer Ian Quillen in Washington contributed to this report.

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