NEW YORK -- A Florida-bound jet departed Monday afternoon from Queens, carrying several of the Mets' top decision makers to their annual baseball operations powwow. Among those in the group was manager Terry Collins, now that the Mets have formally extended his contract for another two years plus a club option for 2016. The deal is worth slightly more than $1 million per season, according to a source.
Collins' entire coaching staff will also return.
General manager Sandy Alderson made the announcement earlier Monday at Citi Field, citing Collins' work over the final 100 games of 2013 as a critical factor. Despite injuries to several of their brightest starts, including starting pitcher Matt Harvey and third baseman David Wright, the Mets went 50-50 over that stretch.
"It is a true, true honor to be here," Collins said. "If you're going to manage, this is the place. There's no better stage, no bigger stage than to manage here. I love it here. I've had a great time here. I've probably enjoyed myself here more than anyplace I've ever been. So it's great to be back."
With a win Sunday, Collins wrapped up his first three seasons with a 225-261 record, good for the lowest winning percentage (.463) at any of his three managerial stops. But Alderson made it clear that he does not blame Collins for those shortcomings, given all the injuries, trades and other roster issues that the Mets have endured.
Since Collins came aboard after the 2010 season, the Mets have invested only lightly in free agents, as they attempted to shed the unwieldy contracts of former GM Omar Minaya's regime. While he waited for some of those contracts to expire, Alderson traded away others, leaving the roster incapable of withstanding major injuries to Harvey, Wright, Jon Niese and others.
So the Mets are giving Collins another chance, amid expectations that they will take the field six months from now with a significantly stronger roster. Alderson promised Monday that he will make considerable player acquisitions this winter, either through trades or free agency.
"We expect to be better next season," Alderson said. "We expect to compete. And in that sense, we're very much looking forward to next season."
Choosing Collins over a group of finalists that included Wally Backman, Bob Melvin and Chip Hale, Alderson originally signed him after the 2010 season, reasoning that Collins' background in player development would aid the Mets' rebuilding effort. To that end, Collins has mentored some of the organization's top young talents, including Harvey, starting pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis d'Arnaud.
Along the way, he proved that his leadership style has mellowed since previous managerial stops in Anaheim (1994-96) and Houston (1997-99). When Collins said at his introductory press conference in 2010 that "I'm not the evil devil that a lot of people have made me out to be," he apparently meant it. In Flushing, Collins has earned the sincere support and respect of his clubhouse.
But starting now, the Mets will require a higher baseline from Collins, provided Alderson makes good on his promises of significant roster improvement. Five consecutive losing seasons, including four fourth-place finishes, have tested the resolve in Queens; the Mets want to start improving, and rapidly, and they consider Collins a key component of that plan.
"The pressure's on all of us to win," chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said.
From Alderson's perspective, that means investing in new players. Though the Mets will look hard at many of the top free agents available this winter, including outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, Alderson said he would practice prudence in negotiations. The GM noted that he has the capability to make a nine-figure deal if he sees fit, but expressed doubt that he would.
One team source suggested that the Mets may be more likely to take on a large contract via trade, considering their payroll flexibility and currency of young pitchers. The Mets have committed only $25 million to next year's payroll, plus expected arbitration raises for Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and others. Even taking all of that into account, the Mets should have tens of millions of dollars available to spend on talent.
The result, theoretically, should be a significantly improved roster for Collins to manage.
"With what I knew was coming, to keep the job was huge for me," Collins said. "There's light at the end of the tunnel. And to have a chance to take those pieces and move on absolutely is pretty exciting for me. So I was thrilled when Sandy said, 'Hey, we want you to come back.' You know what? Maybe we can finish what we started."