Word this week that the triple-A Buffalo Bisons have all but officially closed the door on their four-year affiliation agreement with the New York Mets comes as little surprise, and it would be a shock if the Toronto Blue Jays did not to end up taking their place.
There were suggestions at the beginning of the year that the Bisons had become disenchanted with their Mets partnership, something manager Wally Backman confirmed to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News over the weekend.
"It’s a shame for us, really," said Backman. "Buffalo is a great city but I don’t envision us coming back, from the things I’ve heard from the grapevine."
The Blue Jays represent an ideal replacement given their proximity, emphasis on minor-league development and bevy of in-house prospects.
Adding to the mix is that Blue Jays manager John Farrell worked closely with the Buffalo group during his stint as director of player development with the Cleveland Indians, and Marty Brown, manager of the Blue Jays’ triple-A affiliate at Las Vegas, led the Bisons from 2003-05, winning a Governors’ Cup title in 2004.
The Blue Jays were interested in Buffalo four years ago after Syracuse severed their 30-year affiliation due to unhappiness over the quality of teams they were getting, but the Bisons were focused on the Mets.
There was also an anti-Toronto sentiment in Buffalo due to the Bills-in-Toronto series and fears that plans were afoot to steal away the city’s NFL team. With many of those concerns now abated, and the potential for a boost from Southern-Ontario Blue Jays fans more interested in the club’s prospects than ever, it now makes too much sense for both sides not to happen.
Should it get done, it will not signal any unhappiness on the Blue Jays’ part with the Las Vegas 51s. In many ways they have been a strong partner, but the distance between Las Vegas and Toronto is a logistical nightmare for shipping players back and forth, the desert heat isn’t ideal and Cashman Field is an old facility in need of change with plans for a new park part of a larger stadium complex shot down.
Nothing can be said publicly by the teams under threat of fine until the 15-day window for affiliation changes opens Sept. 16.