Jays welcome Las Vegas into fold

Toronto signs two-year deal with new Triple-A affiliate

Toronto's Triple-A prospects will call Cashman Field in Las Vegas home for the next two seasons. (Las Vegas 51s)

By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com | September 23, 2008 6:15 AM

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' search for a new home for their Triple-A affiliate didn't end ideally, with the club forced to trade the convenience of nearby New York for a partnership with the Las Vegas 51s in Nevada.

On the other side of Lake Ontario, vacancies in Buffalo and Syracuse within the Empire State were filled, leaving Toronto with few options. Left in an unfamiliar situation, the Blue Jays turned to the Pacific Coast League and signed a two-year player development deal with Las Vegas on Monday.

"We are excited to partner with such a strong organization in Las Vegas," said Dick Scott, Toronto's director of player development. "Their facilities and staff, along with our improving Minor League talent, should make this a very successful venture for both sides."

While that is the hope, the move to Las Vegas doesn't come without its problems.

For the past 31 seasons, the Blue Jays' Triple-A club had been in Syracuse, which is roughly a four-hour drive from Toronto. Sending players back and forth between Toronto and Las Vegas will require a five-hour flight.

The Syracuse Chiefs had made it known that they weren't willing to extend their relationship with the Blue Jays after this season. Syracuse hasn't made the International League playoffs since 1998 and was hoping to reel in a more competitive farm club. In the end, Syracuse found a new parent club in the Washington Nationals.

Syracuse initially had its sights set on the Mets, but New York quickly quashed that plan by inking a deal with Buffalo after leaving New Orleans. The Blue Jays would've preferred a move to Buffalo, which ended its connection with Cleveland once the Indians had a chance to move its affiliate to Columbus, Ohio.

The Los Angeles Dodgers -- the previous tenants of the 26-year-old Cashman Field in Las Vegas -- shifted their Triple-A site to Albuquerque, N.M. New Orleans might have been an option for Toronto, but the Marlins reached an agreement with the Louisiana franchise after leaving Albuquerque.

So, the way the chips fell, the Blue Jays landed in Vegas -- now only the second Triple-A affiliate of Toronto in team history. The Jays actually opened the 1996 regular season against the A's at Cashman Field due to unfinished renovations at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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