Indians reach four-year deal with Columbus

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians have signed a four-year player development contract with the Columbus Clippers.

The Clippers, the New York Yankees' Triple-A team from 1979 to 2006 and Washington's the past two years, are opening a $55 million downtown ballpark next season. Huntington Park is located in the city's Arena District, just down the street from where the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets play.

The agreement between the Indians and the International League's Clippers runs through 2012.

Columbus played its last game at 76-year-old Cooper Stadium last month.

"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."

Cleveland recently broke ties with the Buffalo Bisons, who served as the Indians' top minor league team since 1995. The New York Mets are reportedly close to finalizing a deal with Buffalo.

Cleveland's move to Columbus has been expected for months. With a team in the state capital, the Indians will now have four minor league teams in Ohio. They already have affiliates in Akron (Double-A), Lake County (Class A) and Mahoning Valley (Class A).

"The Columbus community is excited and ecstatic that we have this opportunity to align with the Cleveland Indians," Clippers general manager Ken Schnacke said. "The enthusiasm in and around the Central Ohio area is a testament to the popularity of this new partnership."