The Nationals will have a new Triple-A affiliate in 2021, as they’ve reached an agreement with the Rochester Red Wings, Justin Murphy and Sean Lahman of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle report. The move to partner with the Nationals will end an 18-year affiliation between the Red Wings and the Twins. The length of the new player development contract between the Nats and Red Wings hasn’t been announced, although such agreements are generally for two years or for four years.
The appeal for the Nationals in this deal is quite apparent. The Nats just wrapped up a two-year PDC with the Fresno Grizzlies after an awkward game of musical chairs between several teams and the few available Triple-A affiliates two years ago left them as the last two potential partners standing. Fresno is nearly 2800 miles and more than a six-hour flight from Nationals Park. It was never an ideal fit. Rochester is a mere 382 miles, with a flight to D.C. checking in at about 90 minutes.
Shuttling players between Triple-A and the big leagues will be vastly easier for the Nats in 2021 and beyond. They’ll also surely be pleased to move their young pitchers from the hitters’ paradise that is the Pacific Coast League to a friendlier setting in the International League.
As for the Twins, they’re now without a Triple-A affiliate, although they’ve long been reported to be working on an affiliation deal with the St. Paul Saints. While the Saints have been an independent team since their inception in 1993 — first in the Northern League and, since 2005, in the American Association — the Twins’ hope is that they can work out a deal to move their Triple-A club just miles from their current home park. Target Field and the Saints’ CHS Field are separated by all of 11 miles.
La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported recently that the Twins and Saints are continuing to progress toward a deal and may even have the framework of an agreement in place. Triple-A stadiums are required to have a capacity of at least 10,000, but Neal writes that said requirement would be waived for the recently constructed CHS Field, which opened in 2015 and has a 7210-person capacity. The Saints would need to pay a significant sum to Minor League Baseball — $20MM — in order to be granted affiliation, which is the biggest remaining hurdle in the agreement.