Greener Pastures On The Horizon For Buffalo?

The off season in some sports has, at times, adopted the moniker ‘silly season’.  It’s that time of year when the dust kicks up from coast to coast, team names change, affiliations change, team locations change.  While more prevalent in the minor league hockey world, the silly season affects minor league baseball as well.

This upcoming offseason may prove to be an interesting silly season, with many player development contracts expiring, giving parent club and affiliate alike the chance for greener pastures.  The Mets organization is one of those parent clubs that could be in flux come September as far as where their prospects will be playing in 2013.

In November of 2011, Adam Rubin first mentioned a possible split in the marriage between Buffalo and Flushing, stating:

The New York Mets, who were booted from Norfolk, Va., after the 2006 season, may be in for the same fate in Buffalo after the 2012 campaign.

The Mets’ second two-year player-development agreement with Buffalo expires after the 2012 season. And dissatisfaction with the product the Mets are supplying has the Bisons leaning toward switching affiliations when the current agreement expires, according to industry sources.

The Mets were able to smooth things over with Buffalo and keep them as an affiliate after the original two-year agreement expired because of Terry Collins’ hiring to oversee the minors in 2010 and his popularity in Buffalo. Collins managed the Bisons when they were affiliated with the Pirates.

When the Mets were booted from Norfolk, they ended up in New Orleans in the Pacific Coast League for two years — which was undesirable for travel.

The Mets have produced records of 56-87, 76-68 and 61-82 in three seasons in Buffalo. And word is they’re not throwing around a ton of money to minor league free agents this offseason.

To add fuel to the rumor mill (silly season) fire is the wish by the Toronto Blue Jays to have their AAA affiliate closer than it is currently, which is Las Vegas, Nevada.  A mere one hour and 51 minutes separates Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo and Rogers Centre in Toronto.  The Blue Jays would ideally like all of their affiliates in Canada, but AAA markets in that country are slim as all that have had teams in the minor league senior circuit (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Ottawa) have failed.  The ‘next best thing’ for the Blue Jays organization would potentially be a team in Buffalo, currently the closest AAA city to Toronto.

This would leave the New York Mets in a bit of a quandary.  Much like being picked last in gym class, their options would be few, or, well, one.  Connecting the dots, if Toronto moved to Buffalo, then that would open up Las Vegas for the Mets.  This setup would probably prove to be as bad for the Mets as their time in New Orleans.  Beyond the clear disadvantage of travel time from essentially one coast to another, another factor would be that a majority of the Mets NL East competition have their affiliates in the International League (Lehigh Valley/Philadelphia, Syracuse/Washington, Gwinnett/Atlanta).  The Miami Marlins are the lone NL East team currently with their AAA club in the Pacific Coast League, taking over in New Orleans when the Mets vacated for Buffalo.  Granted, competition in AAA doesn’t always translate to competition at the Major League level, but if these guys progress through the various classifications playing against each other, knowing their opponent through the years may provide some sort of advantage when facing them in the ‘bigs’.

It will be an interesting few months in Mets affiliate land, that’s for sure.  Of course, a few press conferences in their current markets would go a long way to stave off any speculation, but as of yet that hasn’t happened.