CLEVELAND -- Columbus, here they come.
The Indians announced Thursday that they have signed a four-year player development contract with the Columbus Clippers of the International League, marking the Tribe's Triple-A move from Buffalo to Ohio's state capital.
Thursday was the first day the Indians, who recently terminated their relationship with the Buffalo Bisons after 14 seasons, were eligible to negotiate with Columbus or any other available Minor League sites. But this is a move that has been anticipated for months.
This is the first time the Indians and Clippers have been affiliated in the 32-year history of the Clippers organization.
"Partnering with the Columbus Clipper organization is a tremendous opportunity for the Indians organization to affiliate with a first-class organization in the vibrant capital city located in the heart of our fan base," Indians president Paul Dolan said in a release. "It's an exciting time for both organizations, as well as for the baseball fans of Ohio."
The Clippers, who were a Washington Nationals affiliate the past two years, are opening the $55 million Huntington Park in the city's downtown Arena District next season. Columbus, which was a Yankees affiliate from 1979-2006, played its final game in 76-year-old Cooper Stadium last month.
Indians officials have been prohibited from discussing the Columbus possibility all season, but the move was the worst-kept secret in the International League. Moving to Columbus gives the Indians four Minor League teams -- Double-A Akron, Class A Lake County and short-season Class A Mahoning Valley being the others -- in Ohio. All four are located within a 2 1/2-hour drive of Progressive Field.
A formal announcement of this new arrangement will take place at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, when Dolan and Chris Antonetti, the Tribe's assistant general manager, will be at Huntington Park for a news conference.
While not mentioned in the official announcement, it is expected that SportsTime Ohio, the Indians' television home, will broadcast Triple-A games from Columbus next season.
As for the Bisons, they are reportedly nearing an agreement to become the Triple-A home of the New York Mets.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.