The Buffalo Bisons and Toronto Blue Jays have opened discussions on a player development contract to put the Blue Jays' Triple-A team in Buffalo for at least the next two years, officials from both clubs said Sunday.
In a move widely expected in baseball circles, the Bisons requested permission from the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues to discuss a new parent club to replace the New York Mets. Similarly, the Blue Jays filed a request with Major League Baseball to potentially relocate their Triple-A team from Las Vegas, where it has been since 2008.
Discussions are allowed in a window that opened Sunday. Bisons General Manager Mike Buczkowski told The Buffalo News Sunday that both he and team president Jon Dandes have already spoken today to Charlie Wilson, the Jays' director of minor-league operations. They also expect to talk to Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos and President Paul Beeston in short order, perhaps as soon as later today following the Jays/Red Sox game in Rogers Centre.
Bisons operators Bob and Mindy Rich are also expected to speak to the Blue Jays via conference call. It's likely Bob Rich, who is a longtime friend of Mets owner Fred Wilpon and also close with Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer and New York manager Terry Collins, will make what amounts to a goodbye call to the Mets in the next day or so.
The Bisons have been affiliated with the Mets for the last four years, finishing with a winning record in just 2010. They were 67-76 this season and their record since 2009 of 260-313 is 28th out of the 30 Triple-A teams. The Bisons made the playoffs nine times from as an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians from 1995-2005 but did not qualify in their final three years with Cleveland before the Tribe left Buffalo for Columbus, Ohio.
"People say we have to have a winning team but I say to be competitive," Buczkowski said. "There were a lot of times the last four years we were not competitive. We get a bad rap that we're demanding a championship team. That's not what we're saying. We need a competitive team. Win more than you lose. Play some games in August that mean something. We haven't done that."
The Blue Jays said they will talk to Vegas just like the Bisons will be talking to the Mets. But neither side is expected to keep their current affiliation.
"It all comes down to geography, more than anything else," Anthopoulos told Toronto reporters prior to Sunday's game. "Las Vegas has been good for us and we may very well end up being there. At this stage we want to at least take a look. … Vegas has been great. The only challenge is geography."
As per the rules governing minor-league PDCs, the Bisons and Blue Jays will sign either a two- or four-year deal. The Bisons will be the only International League team to change parents next season and it's expected to be made official in the next couple of days. With no other Triple-A cities available, the Mets will have to replace the Blue Jays in Las Vegas.