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The prospect of the New York Yankees becoming the parent club of the Buffalo Bisons has once again arisen.

The Bisons have notified the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues they are interested in shopping around for a new parent club, Bisons Vice President and General Manager Mike Billoni confirmed Friday. The National Association is the governing body for the minor leagues.

The Bisons are not ruling out staying with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the major league team with which Buffalo has been affiliated for the past three years.

But under the terms of the new Player Development Contract between the major and minor leagues, minor league clubs had until Thursday to either finalize their agreement with their big league affiliate or express their intention to pursue other parent teams.

Minor league teams that did the latter had to specify which big-league teams they are pursuing.

Billoni said he could not name the major-league teams on the Bisons' list because of a gag-order by the National Association.

However, several sources, including Nashville Sounds President Larry Schmittou, said the Yankees are the team Buffalo is after.

The Columbus Clippers have been the long-time Triple-A affiliate of the Yankees.

Columbus was not able to finalize its working agreement with the Yanks by Thursday's deadline. The Clippers would like to remain with the Yanks, and sources in Columbus say the Clippers informed the National Association of their interest in the Yankees, Cincinnati and Cleveland on Thursday.

This brings up an oft-rumored scenario in which Buffalo, Columbus and Nashville would switch parent clubs. The Yanks would come to Buffalo, a hotbed of Yankee fandom; Cincinnati would go from Nashville to Columbus,
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just up the road; and the Pirates would shift to Nashville.

Nashville has not been able to finalize its agreement with the Reds, much to the displeasure of Schmittou.

"It would be settled if not for Buffalo," Schmittou said. "Buffalo opened up a chain of events that we got caught in. When Buffalo filed (its intention to shop around), Columbus named Cincinnati."

Schmittou, nevertheless, hopes to stay with the Reds.

"We fully plan to be back with them. We are not interested in any other team and don't plan to talk with any other team," he said.

The Pirates say they want to stay in Buffalo.

"I flew up to Buffalo this week and met with Bob and Mindy (Rich)," said Cam Bonifay, Pittsburgh's director of scouting. "I felt like we had good discussions on our wanting to continue our relationship. . . . We feel like we're going to be in Buffalo."

Billoni said the Bisons want the best parent club they can find.

"We want to sign with the parent club that can best guarantee: No. 1, that we will be competitive; and No. 2, that they will provide the fans of Buffalo the type of club that they can appreciate," he said.

A total of 12 minor-league clubs, counting all levels, have expressed their interest in shopping around, according to the National Association.

If the Bisons are going to split with Pittsburgh, they only have until Jan. 19 to make a deal with a new parent team.

Any switch of affiliation has to be approved by a four-member committee made up of representatives of the major and minor leagues. That committee will consider new agreements from Jan. 10-19.

It's believed a main reason the committee was formed was to prevent extremely inconvenient pairings of major and minor league teams. For instance, it's conceiveable that after a series of affiliation shifts, a West Coast team would have to match up with a Triple-A team on the East Coast because it's the only franchise available.

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