The Triple-A affiliation shuffle is complete. The Toronto Blue Jays are coming to Buffalo in 2013 while the New York Mets will be paying for their sins here the last four years by getting exiled to Sin City.
The Bisons and Blue Jays officially announced their two-year player development contract today, a deal sources first confirmed Monday night to The Buffalo News. They will hold a gala news conference in honor of the agreement Friday afternoon at Pettibones Grille in Coca-Cola Field.
"Aligning with the Blue Jays not only gives the Bisons a great regional partner, but also aligns us with one of the top minor league systems in all of baseball," Bisons owner Bob Rich Jr. said in a statement released today. "Toronto has a well-documented commitment to developing exciting young talent throughout their farm system."
"We are thrilled to enter into partnership with the Buffalo Bisons organization and more specifically with Mindy and Bob Rich who we have known for many years," said Blue Jays President and CEO Paul Beeston. "This relationship is a natural fit, both geographically and philosophically. The Bisons are committed to winning and the Rich family to providing an environment consistent with the values we are establishing with the Blue Jays. Simply put, we are fortunate they have agreed to align with our program and we thank them for the confidence they have shown in us."
The Mets, meanwhile, announced Monday night during their game against Philadelphia in Citi Field that they have signed a two-year deal with the Las Vegas 51s. They had no other options, as all other Triple-A teams had signed with major-league parents.
The Bisons had the third-worst winning percentage among Triple-A teams since the Mets arrived here in 2009 and opted not to renew their contract when it expired after the season. The window to sign with a new parent opened Sunday and the Herd moved quickly to forge a deal.
Bob Rich and his wife, Mindy, will be on hand for Friday's news conference as will Beeston and Blue Jays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Other ambassadors of the new parent club are also expected to attend.
The Blue Jays will become the Bisons' fifth parent in their modern era of Triple-A baseball, joining the Mets, Chicago White Sox (1985-86), Pittsburgh Pirates (1988-94) and Cleveland Indians (1987, 1995-2008).
The Bisons briefly had a Canadian parent once before in their history, going 9-29 in 1970 with the Montreal Expos before the International League transferred the struggling club to Winnipeg. Buffalo was without baseball until it returned as a Double-A Pirates franchise in 1979.
The Mets will be returning to the Pacific Coast League, where they were based in 2007-08 with New Orleans. It is considered a major hardship for an East Coast team because of the travel involved and the thin air that creates high-scoring games makes it tough to gauge prospects.
In the Blue Jays, the Bisons will be getting an organization deeper in prospects and with more recent success of winning. In Baseball America's preseason talent rankings, the Blue Jays were listed as the fifth-best organization while the Mets were 25th. Earlier this month, MLB.com listed seven Blue Jays farmhands - more than any other club - among its top 100 prospects.
There's no word on Buffalo's field staff for next season, although Las Vegas manager Marty Brown was here in July for the Triple-A All-Star Game and would likely be interested in returning to the Bisons. Brown managed the Herd from 2003-05, leading it to the 2004 Governors' Cup championship. The Bisons will open the 2013 season as a Blue Jays affiliate April 4 at home against Rochester
In other Mets news, the Newark Star-Ledger said Monday night the Mets have fired Bisons pitching coach Mark Brewer. He had an up-and-down year directing a Bisons staff that posted a 3.99 ERA and was eighth in the International League, having success with prospects such as Matt Harvey and Josh Edgin but struggles with the likes of Jeurys Famila and Jenrry Mejia.
No decision has been made on Bisons manager Wally Backman, who is spending September with the big club. It's believed Backman is wary of the travel involved in managing a club in the Pacific Coast League and may not be very interested in the Las Vegas job if it's offered. Backman was talking last winter to both the Mets and Washington Nationals about big-league coaching jobs before accepting the post in Buffalo.