TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays intend to have talks on a player-development contract with the Buffalo Bisons, one of only two triple-A teams to have its affiliation open as the negotiation period began Sunday.
The Blue Jays have been in Las Vegas the past four seasons, but would love to be in Buffalo, an easy 90-minute drive away. The New York Mets have been with the Bisons the last four years but last month manager Wally Backman said rumblings were their partnership was nearing its end.
If true, the Mets would end up with the 51s, and some in Buffalo were suggesting an announcement may come as soon as Tuesday.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was cautious in his comments Sunday, trying not to praise the merits of an affiliate in Buffalo too heartily in case things fall apart.
"We plan on doing so," Anthopolous said of talking with the Bisons. "It all comes down to geography, more than anything else. 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."
Anthopoulos added that the strength of partnership and management mattered, too, and when it was pointed out that the Bisons have had steady, long-term ownership, he replied, "Great, absolutely."
Charlie Wilson, the Blue Jays' director of minor-league operations, is the point man for talks.
The Bisons are reportedly unhappy with the quality of teams the Mets have provided them, and may feel the Blue Jays' farm system offers them the potential for better talent in the coming years. The 51s were 79-64 in 2012, while the Bisons were 67-76.
"I don't want to get ahead of ourselves," said Anthopoulos. "Just in fairness, Charlie is the one doing all this, I know everyone wants to link everything, if ever came to that point I'd have a lot more thoughts on it, but in fairness to everybody, Las Vegas, to everybody else, it's just like free agency right now, everyone just declared free agency.
"It's not like there're five affiliates out there, there's two, the Mets and us. Until we have dialogue and go down the path, I don't want to get into what would happen if we were in a certain place."
The Bisons have traditionally opened new partnerships with a two-year agreement, but there's been speculation they and the Blue Jays may seek a four-year deal. Those two lengths are the only options.
"We're open to either," said Anthopoulos. "Our lean is always to go shorter, no matter what it is, player contracts, things like that, but we're fine with four."
Shi Davidi is the MLB Insider for sportsnet.ca. Come back to read his insight and opinion regularly.