After the Toronto Blue Jays made some trades at the deadline that weakened the roster of their AAA affiliate, the Las Vegas 51s, the 51s organization sent out some unsettling tweets. Those tweets made it clear that the 51s were unhappy with their MLB parent club. In addition, the Buffalo Bisons seem unhappy with their MLB parent club, the New York Mets. These two situations could lead to the Bisons becoming the Blue Jays’ affiliate for the 2013 season.
Pawtucket and Buffalo are the only International League teams currently without a major league partnership for the upcoming 2013 season.
The Blue Jays have yet to renew their partnership with the 51s and there seems to be some mutual dissatisfaction in that relationship.
The Blue Jays are presumably unhappy with the playing conditions in the Pacific Coast League. They are unable to properly develop pitchers, promoting them directly from AA because the PCL provides undesirable conditions for the development of young pitchers. The ball flies out of the park in some ballparks and shoots through the infield too fast in Vegas. Both of these issues make it difficult to accurately gauge the performance of pitchers. It also could presumably affect the confidence of young pitchers should the results not accurately reflect their ability.
This has resulted in pitchers being called up to the Jays before they are ready. Blue Jays prospect pitchers skip the AAA level, where pitchers are exposed to experienced, mature hitters who are just not quite talented enough to reach the big leagues.
The Buffalo media, and presumably the Bisons’ ownership, are unhappy with the image of the New York Mets ball club. Mets‘ owner Fred Wilpon is a PR nightmare and, according to this article from the Buffalo News, the Bisons’ ownership (Rich Products) has little tolerance for “shenanigans”.
So does that leave the door open for the Toronto Blue Jays to acquire a new partnership? According to this same article, the Blue Jays are the optimal choice to replace the Mets as a partner with the Buffalo Bisons.
The Blue Jays’ renewed focus on the minor league system makes them a desirable affiliate for minor league teams. If the Blue Jays were to build a partnership with the Bisons, several impressive young pitchers could throw for the Bisons next year, including Henderson Alvarez, Sean Nolin, and John Stilson. Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison could pitch in Buffalo when they return from injury. Even Brett Cecil could provide some veteran stability for their rotation.
A talent boost might not be the only thing that would benefit ticket sales in Buffalo. With a strong Blue Jays representation found in the Niagara region, Blue Jays fans will be just a short drive away from seeing their team’s prospects. Of course, Blue Jays fans are some of the more rabid prospect fans in baseball. I know this writer will be making frequent drives down to Buffalo should a partnership with the Jays arise.
The partnership would not only be of benefit for the Bisons organization, but also for the Blue Jays.
The Buffalo Bisons house an excellent minor league environment. The organization is considered a gold standard in minor league baseball for several reasons.
First, the stadium is one of the biggest and best in the minor leagues. Though it is now 24 years old, it has a 40-foot by 20-foot jumbo-tron, luxury suites, an in-stadium restaurant, and a four tier party deck.
The Bisons are also renowned for their outstanding professional development. Internal employees (i.e., accountants, PR associates, broadcasters) are sent to the majors from Buffalo more regularly than from most other organizations.
Of course, what will be most beneficial to the Blue Jays is a playing environment that more accurately replicates the environment in Toronto. Also of importance is that the Blue Jays will have an affiliate close to home, cutting out the ridiculous flight paths taken by players in order to get to Toronto.
The Las Vegas 51s are unhappy. The Buffalo Bisons are unhappy. The Toronto Blue Jays, presumably, are unhappy. It’s time for a switch. It’s time for the Blue Jays‘ affiliate to come closer to home and provide the fans of Buffalo with an experience more fitting of a first-class minor league organization.
Charles Davis is a baseball writer for RantSports.com with a specific focus on the Toronto Blue Jays, their farm system, and prospects league-wide. Read his articles here and follow him on Twitter @CPDavis90.