The minor league affiliate shuffle sends the Nats’ Triple-A team to . . . Fresno?

Fresno Grizzlies
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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.

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year, $58.5M deal with Astros

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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HOUSTON — Jose Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year, $58.5 million contract, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup.

Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, gets $19.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS this year.

With the Astros, he replaces Yuli Gurriel at first base in a batting order that also features All-Star sluggers Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Gurriel became a free agent after Houston defeated the Philadelphia Phillies this month for its second World Series championship.

The 35-year-old Abreu becomes the biggest free agent to switch teams so far this offseason. Born in Cuba, the three-time All-Star and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a .292 career hitter in the majors with 243 homers, 863 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

The Astros announced the signing. Abreu was scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.

He would get a $200,000 for winning an MVP award, $175,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $125,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth. Abreu also would get $100,000 for earning World Series MVP and $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $75,000 for making the All-Star team and $75,000 for winning a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.

Abreu gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite for all Astros home games.