One down, four to go...
While the focus for most of this year will be the fate of Washington’s AAA affiliate, the Nats officially re-signed its Player Development Contract (PDC) with Harrisburg for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Officially, the remaining affiliates – Auburn, Hagerstown, Potomac, and Syracuse – are all signed through this season. Despite their stadium woes, it’s quite likely both full-season “A” teams will renew for another two years.
The relationship between Auburn and Washington is fairly short (since 2010). With teams in Batavia and State College with no strong ties to a major-league affiliate, it’s possible that a switch could happen – especially if the Nats value proximity to its other affiliates, as the use of the team for rehab assignments for AA and AAA players suggests.
As aforementioned, the Nats will need to find a new home for their AAA team with the Mets’ purchase of Syracuse, and as of now, the best bet is on Las Vegas – the current Mets affiliate and typically the last AAA team standing in the biannual affiliate dance.
This is primarily because East Coast teams despise having affiliates in the Pacific Coast League due to the logistics of getting a player to the big club on short notice. It’s worth noting that Nashville, Oakland’s AAA affiliate and the team furthest to the east of the available PCL teams for 2019 and beyond, is up for grabs.
Otherwise, just five of the 14 teams in the International League have expiring PDCs. You can probably exclude Toledo and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre right off the bat, and perhaps even Norfolk; as much as Washington fans would love to stick it to Baltimore, it would be a major shock if the Nats were able to disrupt that partnership.
That leaves Buffalo (currently affiliated with Toronto) and Rochester (Minnesota) as potential targets for Washington for the next two seasons. To matters worse, or perhaps more interesting, there’s some drama regarding the stadium lease in Rochester which naturally boils down to money.
Presuming the folks who follow this stuff full-time (and believe it’s a scare tactic by the I.L.) are right, then it would seem that Rochester might be the best target for the Nationals.
P.S. Any scenario with Harrisburg becoming the new AAA affiliate involves a lot of hoops to jump through as noted by Richmond.com, which saw its local team do the opposite in 2010. Sorry, kids.