Starting this season, the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets have essentially swapped Triple-A affiliates. The Las Vegas 51s are the new Triple-A affiliate of the Mets and the Blue Jays have taken over affiliation of the Buffalo Bisons.
This swap appears to be a great benefit to the Blue Jays and not so much for the Mets. Now if the Mets need to call up a hot prospect from AAA or send a player away on a rehab assignment to AAA those player transfers will now necessitate over 2200 miles of travel. The distance between New York and Las Vegas now stands as the fifth-longest distance between a parent Major League club and the parent’s AAA affiliate. The second longest distance between clubs in 2013? About 1,000 miles separates Rochester, New York and their Red Wings from the parent club, the Minnesota Twins. That pales in comparison to the cross-country jaunt for Mets players. From the Wall Street Journal:
That is a lot of transportation for a player being called up or sent down. On top of that, if the Mets need to make an emergency call-up of a player in AAA to replace another injured player, the called-up player has to fly 2200 miles but also lose two hours crossing time zones. This means the player has to be ready to go at the Las Vegas airport early in the morning before an evening game, OR he has to wait another day before making it to New York. Reiterating what I just said is, again, the Wall Street Journal:
The Mets are moving their top minor-league affiliate to Las Vegas, a city some 2,200 miles away from Queens—the greatest distance between a Triple-A team and its current parent club. This will cause some glaring logistical problems, making it tougher for the Mets to make a quick call-up or send players on the mend down for brief rehab assignments.
(I also concede that Toronto’s affiliation with Las Vegas was nearly as long and also having to cross two time zones.)
Because of the time gap and the distance covered, it seems like east coast teams like Toronto or the Mets shouldn’t even consider using a west coast(ish) team like Las Vegas as a AAA affiliate. You’d think that Las Vegas would be snapped up by other west coast teams or Texas teams but they all are using AAA affiliates that are geographically logical, so in the game of Affiliate Musical Chairs an east coast team left standing had to utilize Las Vegas.
So what should a team like the Mets do in an emergency situation? Fortunately their AA affiliate, the Binghamton Mets, is also in the state of New York. The team could utilize the AA team for emergency call-ups or injury rehabilitation stints. Using the AA club is a viable emergency replacement of talent or injury rehabilitation.
(H/T to Mark Graban for sharing this Wall Street Journal article about the affiliate change last fall!)