Minor league-major league affiliations are a tricky business.
With few exceptions, mostly at the lower levels, major league teams do not own the minor league affiliates. They have agreements with them, which last a minimum of two years. Sometimes the relationship between the big club and the ownership group of the farm club is great and they extend the affiliations for years on end. Sometimes these relationships are short-lived and are entered into simply because there are few other options as teams scramble to match up with affiliates.
The Washington Nationals’ deal with their Triple-A club for the next two years falls into that latter category:
There’s no reason why a big league club can’t have a Triple-A affiliate that is literally across a continent from the home ballpark, but there’s not a lot to recommend that situation either. If a big league guy wakes up with a bad back one Sunday morning, you can’t exactly rush someone to the ballpark from the minors before a 1PM first pitch. If the GM or his aides want to go see someone play down on the farm, they can’t really do it impulsively. There are likewise few marketing synergies to be had between a big league club in D.C. and a Triple-A club in Fresno, California.
But such is life when the Astros leave Fresno to affiliate with Round Rock, which is owned by Nolan Ryan. That relationship ended, primarily, because Ryan’s relationship ended with the Rangers a few years back, so the Rangers are now moving on to Nashville. Nashville had the A’s, but the A’s are moving on to Las Vegas. Las Vegas had the Mets but the Mets are now Syracuse which . . . used to be the Nats’ affiliation. And round and round it goes.
Oh, and the Brewers are leaving Colorado Springs to go to San Antonio, which was in the Texas League and is now moving up. Milwaukee was in Colorado Springs, which will no longer be a Triple-A team.
It’s a weird process — there’s a strong musical chairs vibe to all of this, and the big league clubs actually have less power in it than they are accustomed to having in their business relationships — but such is life when you outsource the overhead for your development pipeline.