A little over two weeks ago, I touched on a report that progress was being made in bringing professional baseball back to Ottawa, likely in the form of a Double-A Eastern League franchise. In that article, two scenarios that were presented were either moving the Jays’ existing Double-A affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, to the nation’s capital, or that the New York Mets‘ current Double-A club, the Binghamton Mets, were going to head north instead.
According to the Ottawa Citizen as of yesterday, not only does it appear that the possibility of a Double-A franchise in Ottawa is inching closer to a reality, but that the Jays and Mets would, in essence, swap Double-A affiliations at the end of the 2012 season.
In light of a few other recent reports, though, the Jays could very well have minor league franchises in both Ottawa and Buffalo in 2013.
The Ottawa Citizen article speculates that “all signs indicate” Ottawa would become the new home of the Binghamton Mets, New York’s current Double-A affiliate that had the lowest average and total attendances in the Eastern League in 2011. With that franchise moving to Ottawa to become the Jays’ new Double-A affiliate, the Mets would then take control of a franchise in a more lucrative environment given the Fisher Cats’ fan base. That would make sense for them, as they’d be taking over a much more successful Double-A franchise plus the Fisher Cats’ stadium, Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, would be nearly the same distance from Citi Field than Binghamton’s is.
But there’s a another scenario that could make even more sense.
On Tuesday, primarily in response to the Ottawa rumors in an effort to quiet the speculation, the Binghamton Mets’ ownership group extended its lease at their current stadium until the end of the 2016 season.
“We have had a great relationship with the City of Binghamton since 1994 and we are eagerly looking forward to playing ball here for the next five years, and hopefully many years thereafter,” B-Mets president Michael Urda said in an article on pressconnects.com.
Couple that with the fact that Beacon Sports currently lists the New Hampshire Fisher Cats as one of their clients on their website, and there could be something entirely different going on here.
“[Eastern League commissioner Joe] McEacharn confirmed Wednesday the league has given permission to Beacon Sports, a Massachusetts-based brokerage firm, to explore Ottawa for the relocation of one of its existing franchises in time for the 2013 season,” it says in the Ottawa Citizen article.
Nowhere does it say that Beacon Sports is looking to purchase the Binghamton Mets and move them to Ottawa, only that they have received approval to move one of their existing franchises.
Assuming that that franchise is the Fisher Cats and that they would even want to relocate to Ottawa for the 2013 season, that would create a hole in New Hampshire to be filled by another minor league club. Not Binghamton’s franchise, though, but rather the Mets’ current Triple-A club, the Buffalo Bisons, whose player development contract expires at the end of the 2012 season.
The Jays narrowly missed out on Buffalo as a Triple-A affiliate prior to the 2009 season, when the Mets managed to win the sweepstakes and Toronto had to settle for Las Vegas. The Jays would surely like to get out of Las Vegas and move their Triple-A club closer to home, and according to ESPN New York on Monday, a Triple-A club in Buffalo could open up for other teams very soon.
“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.”
What better big league franchise to take over the on-field product in Buffalo than the Toronto Blue Jays, who have one of, if not the best minor league system in baseball right now? With that, in addition to the Jays’ obvious proximity to Buffalo, and the Bisons could bet on an increase in attendance from being affiliated with the Blue Jays.
So, folks, what could possibly be the plan in motion right now is for the Jays to not just have a Double-A affiliate in Ottawa but also a Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo by the the start of the 2013 season.