The Toronto Blue Jays have made a concerted effort of late to further commit themselves to scouting and player development. Continuing with that trend, the organization announced on Tuesday it was re-upping with one Minor League affiliate and adding a new one to the fold.
Toronto extended its player development contract with the Lansing Lugnuts in the Class A Midwest League for two seasons, extending the agreement through 2012. The Blue Jays first partnered with Lansing in 2005. Current members of the big league roster who played in Lansing include outfielder Travis Snider and pitchers Casey Janssen and Marc Rzepczynski.
The Lugnuts made the Midwest League playoffs in 2006-2008, advancing to the second round in 2006 before losing to the eventual champion West Michigan Whitecaps. In the six years since it became a part of the Blue Jays' system, Lansing has gone a combined 420-412 for a .505 winning percentage, finishing over .500 in all but one season.
"We have nothing but great things to say about general manager Pat Day and the entire Lugnuts organization," said Tony LaCava, the Blue Jays' assistant general manager and vice president of baseball operations. "They have been tremendous partners in developing our young men as players and people. We look forward to many more players reaching Toronto after grooming their talents in Lansing."
Toronto hopes it can say the same thing for its new affiliate in the rookie-level Appalachian League. A four-year working agreement was reached with the Bluefield baseball club, giving the Blue Jays seven affiliates for the 2011 season. Renamed the Bluefield Blue Jays, the club will have Dennis Holmberg as the manager next season.
It's a big change for Bluefield, the West Virginia town with a rich baseball history that dates back to 1882. The club has been affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles since 1958, starting when the Appy League was a Class D circuit and extending all the way through its history as a rookie-level league beginning in 1963. Bluefield has been affiliated with the Boston Braves, Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox and Brooklyn Dodgers over the years.
"This is another example of our commitment to scouting and development as the driving force to move our organization forward," LaCava said. "The first step was to invest in our scouting staff, then allocating resources to the First Year Player Draft and amateur free agents. Next year, we will take another step forward by expanding to seven Minor League affiliates. Bluefield is a tremendous partner for us and presents a great opportunity for our young men to develop."
This is not the first foray into the Appalachian League for the Blue Jays. Toronto had an affiliate in Pulaski of the short-season league for the 2003-2006 seasons.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.