By now, you’ve probably heard that the New York Mets have bought the Syracuse Chiefs, which have been the Nationals’ AAA affiliate since 2009.
Details at this point are still scarce – we don’t know, for example, how much the sale price was or whether the Chiefs approached the Mets or vice-versa. At this point, I tend to believe the latter.
Why? Because for the past 10 years, the trend has been for major-league teams to buy affiliates to ensure a desired location or environment, as J.J. Cooper of Baseball America writes here. As any East Coast team would be, the Mets were unhappy with the logistics of flying a player from the West Coast.
More intriguing is Cooper’s environment argument, which has seen the California League lose two teams and the Carolina League expanded by two and two franchises purchased (Salem by Boston in 2009, Carolina by Milwaukee this year). It’s almost mandatory for a prospect writer to excuse poor pitching and discount good hitting in the CAL. It also makes it harder for the analytics folks to break down, and even harder for the casual fans to understand (well, aside from “the whole league is like the Colorado Rockies”).
As the headline suggests, the Nats are now back to trying to find a new home for their roster-fill…er, AAA team. The knee-jerk analysis is that they’ll end up in the market that the Mets are leaving: Las Vegas. While certainly possible, there are 17 teams that have expiring PDCs after next season and nine of them are in the PCL like Vegas, baby (sorry, autocorrect).
Presuming that the Nationals will want to stay in the I.L. and not knowing the politics of the PDCs, my best guess is that Washington will make a play for Rochester. Given the Baltimore-DC rivalry, I know lots of folks would want a shot at Norfolk, but do you remember that time when the O’s were outbid or outmaneuvered by the Nats? Not to mention, I’m not sure if the drive will be any shorter.
In any case, the relative stability of the affiliates — same five since 2010 — has been shaken and changes are coming.