And since we're already all talking about 2013...
(Actually, I started to think about 2014 last night. Stop me. It's a cry for help.)
Another offseason consideration that's already snuck its way onto the radar is the matter of Toronto's Triple-A affiliation for the coming years. Having spent four years in Las Vegas, it would seem as though another venue might be desirable for everyone involved.
This isn't to bag on Vegas, because it seems as though the team and the city has done right by the Jays for the most part, in spite of the fact that they were joined in organizational matrimony mostly because they were the only two wallflowers left without partners when the slow dance started.
(New ear worm: Chris De Burgh's "The Lady in Red". You're welcome.)
The frustration with Vegas as a fan - and I presume for the front office, though perhaps that's a stretch, and they'd never tell either way - is that the results that are generated there can only be viewed through the funhouse glass of the Pacific Coast League. The numbers in the boxscores and in the accumulated tables of stats are not trustworthy, and essentially meaningless if you're attempting to discern the difference between potential prospects and organizational players. Maybe that isn't a bad thing, as smarter people than I continue to point out that you can't scout a boxscore. Still, the results seem so skewed that it's almost impossible to tell what a player is actually doing in the PCL.
Moreover, the Jays really aren't able to give their young pitchers a full season at Triple-A, because who would want to subject their emerging arms to those conditions? So pitchers are asked to repeat a level and get extra seasoning at Double-A, when it might be beneficial for them to have a three-month stint at Triple-A before coming up.
These gripes are obvious at this point, but the question now is: What's the alternative?
According to Mike McCann's MinorLeagueSource.com, there are currently 11 Triple-A franchises that have yet to come to a agreement for the next two years on their Player Development Contracts. They are as follows, with current affiliation in brackets:
- Buffalo Bisons (New York NL)
- Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston)
- Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota)
- Albuquerque Isotopes (Los Angeles NL)
- Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco)
- Iowa Cubs (Chicago NL)
- Las Vegas 51s (Toronto)
- Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis)
- Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee)
- New Orleans Zephyrs (Miami)
- Oklahoma RedHawks (Houston)
All of which leaves three PCL cities with a historical perception of being somewhat undesirable for a variety of reasons (Las Vegas, Nashville and New Orleans) and two IL teams, in Buffalo and Rochester.
Baseball America's Josh Leventhal reported back in May that while there shouldn't be much movement in affilations this offseason, Toronto's desire to move closer to home was clear. Beyond geography, the Jays should be amply motivated to pursue both of those IL alternatives, if only to return to some semblance of normalcy when it comes to the development path they set out for their prospects. As a team that is placing a greater emphasis on the minor league system, you have to imagine that they'd much rather see the Lansing Three pitching primarily in the Northeast as opposed to the high deserts of the Southwest.
I know fans are going to stampede towards the choice of Buffalo as the most natural fit, but given that we've already been down that road once and come away empty, it's worth taking a glance at what the other possibilities are. If the Bisons re-up with the Mets, Rochester is hardly a consolation prize. While not quite as close to the GTA, Rochester has multiple flights to Toronto daily, and sits just across Lake Ontario. If anyone ever had the notion to begin running that ferry service across the lake again, you could say that minor leaguers getting the call were "riding the ferry" to the big club.
Okay, maybe I'm a little to attached to a nice turn of phrase. Still, a large portion of the Jays' fanbase from Oshawa through Kingston to Ottawa would only be a few hours away from the top affiliate.
The forthcoming offseason will be fascinating for a number of reasons, but in an amongst the multitude of free agent and trade rumours that are certain to occupy the time of Jays fans, this affiliation agreement may be the most important deal that the team signs over the winter.