What to expect from Oakland Athletics, Aviators partnership

The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets have utilized Las Vegas at the minor-league level.

Time to see what the Oakland Athletics can do.

Oakland partnered with the Aviators — then the 51s — in September and will operate its Triple-A club out of Las Vegas Ballpark for at least the next two years.

Athletics general manager David Forst spoke about the team’s move at the Triple-A level to Las Vegas and its implications for the Aviators and for the Oakland franchise.

“We’re excited about everything about being in Vegas,” he said.

Here’s what we learned:

The A’s value winning

The Sacramento River Cats represented the Athletics at the Triple-A level from 2000-14, and the Nashville Sounds did so from 2015-18. The River Cats under Oakland won two Triple-A titles, four Pacific Coast League titles, six conference titles and 11 division titles.

The Sounds added a division title in 2016.

The Athletics have a long-standing philosophy that winning at the minor-league level translates to winning at the major-league level, and Forst underscored the importance of minor-league teams that win.

“It’s something we emphasize,” Forst said. “Obviously, there’s development, and guys need to get their at-bats and their innings. But you want these guys to be in a winning environment. That will be appreciated by people in Las Vegas. Hopefully we can deliver on that.”

The Oakland shuttle

The Athletics logged the second-most call-ups in the American League West last season and rely on their minor-league teams to outfit their roster throughout the season.

Nashville is considerably farther from Oakland than Las Vegas, and Forst said the Aviators’ proximity to their major-league home is an additional bonus of the relocation.

“It’s great to have it close by with such an easy flight,” Forst said. “We got spoiled for a lot of years having our team in Sacramento … but being as close as Vegas is, knowing it’s (an easy) flight anywhere, even if we’re on the road, makes the operational part of things that much easier.”

Long-term partnership?

The Athletics signed a two-year deal with Las Vegas, but Forst said the club hopes for a much longer relationship.

Forst spoke at length about the benefits of playing at a state-of-the art facility like Las Vegas Ballpark. He said the new stadium is an ideal place for minor-league players to hone their skills.

“It’s actually going to be a great place to attract minor-league free agents,” Forst said. “Those guys are out there every year. If they’re not going to be in the big leagues, they want to be somewhere that’s great to play, and Vegas and the new ballpark are exactly that.

“We hope that this is a really long-term relationship,” he added. “The ballpark looks incredible. We really hope to be there for a really long time.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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