NEW YORK -- If top prospect Zack Wheeler is back at Triple-A to begin next season, he will find the scenery has changed.
The Mets have officially agreed on a new two-year player development deal with the Las Vegas 51s, the team announced Monday, moving their top Minor League affiliate roughly 2,000 miles west. The Mets based their Triple-A squad in Buffalo, N.Y., for the past four years, but the Bisons severed that agreement reportedly to seek affiliation with the Blue Jays.
"We are excited about our new partnership with the Las Vegas 51s and the city of Las Vegas, one which values equally player development, winning and community involvement," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement.
The Mets have previous experience with a Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, spending 2007-08 in New Orleans after they were unable to renew their player development agreement with the Norfolk Tides. It can be a logistical hardship for East Coast teams, particularly when attempting to make a quick callup or send a player on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
But teams must pair with existing Minor League affiliates, so Buffalo's decision not to renew its agreement left the Mets with limited possibilities. A move to Las Vegas seemed inevitable for months.
One other complication is Las Vegas' reputation as one of the most dynamic offensive environments in all of professional baseball, making it difficult to evaluate players and their bloated statistics.
"What you do is you really use your scouts and your player development people to find the skills," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who managed in a similar offensive environment earlier in his career at Triple-A Albuquerque. "Sometimes you have to back off the results."