Indians sever ties with Buffalo, eye Columbus as future Triple-A home

CLEVELAND -- Bye-bye, Buffalo. Hello, Columbus?

The Cleveland Indians informed Major League Baseball on Tuesday of their desire to terminate their player development contract with Triple-A Buffalo, ending a 14-year partnership with the Bisons.

The Indians' decision appears to clear the way for the club to move its top minor league affiliate to Columbus, Ohio, which will have a new stadium next season. Cleveland already has three minor league teams -- Akron, Lake County and Mahoning Valley -- in Ohio.

In a statement released by the team, the Indians said MLB will inform them on Sept. 15 of available locations for their Triple-A affiliate and that the club will have a 14-day window to negotiate a new deal.

It's been no secret that the Indians have had their eye on Columbus, where they already have a sizable fan base and where they can broaden their television network.

Cleveland's departure from Buffalo has been expected since April when the Indians decided not to extend their deal with the Bisons. In each of the previous four years, the Indians had announced their extensions on Buffalo's opening day. When that didn't happen this year, it became obvious Cleveland was moving on.

The Indians couldn't officially announce the end of their agreement with the Bisons until the Triple-A club ended its International League season. On Monday, Buffalo lost 9-6 to Rochester to finish 66-77, the Bisons' only losing season in 14 years as one of Cleveland's minor league teams.

"Buffalo is a great place to play or manage," said Indians manager Eric Wedge, who spent two seasons with the Bisons before taking over in Cleveland. "The ownership was accommodating as can be. It was a great relationship for an affiliate, but this was a good opportunity for our organization to make a move.

"We look forward to the move, but it is sad to leave Buffalo."

The Bisons will have to find a new parent team and could sign with either Toronto or the New York Mets.