We’ve hinted at this in recent weeks, but the word is now out: the Seattle Mariners are buying a 51-percent interest in the Modesto Nuts (High A; California League) in order to procure a favorable developmental spot on the West Coast.
If you have been following our Affiliate Dance page, you would have seen we said the Nuts could be shifting affiliations to an AL West team — and that AL West team is Seattle. The sale should be publicized in September, when the Nuts and the Mariners finalize the transaction and announce it for all the world to see. The Mariners have no interest in running the Nuts franchise on a day-to-day basis: this is strictly an investment to ensure the team’s Cal League affiliate is the best player-development environment possible. We’ve seen some High-A teams dangle a controlling share of the franchise to lock in an affiliation, both two years ago and in previous months, and it would not be a surprise to see more MLB teams invest in High A teams in coming months, both in the Carolina League and the Cal League.
For Nuts fans, the sale shouldn’t change much: Michael Savit and HWS Baseball will run the team, and executive VP Mike Gorrasi will monitor the day-to-day operations.
The impending sale does not clarify the affiliation picture, but we should know a whole lot more by the end of this week or early next about 2017 player development deals, when we expect to see some decisions on a new Fayetteville ballpark. If that ballpark does indeed move forward you would see the Texas Rangers set up shop in Kinston (where the team has agreed to terms on a lease for Grainger Stadium if a team is procured) and the Houston Astros set up shop in Fayetteville. If you look at the Affiliate Dance listings, renewal would seem to be the order of the day for most of the teams in play: it’s hard to see the Boston Red Sox breaking off their Pawtucket Red Sox affiliation, and it’s hard to see the Cleveland Indians dump the Akron RubberDucks. One area that may see some sort of shuffle iss Low-A ball, where we hear a few teams are not happy with their current affiliates and may want to play the field a little. That always happens: there’s always some level of flirting after the season ends and teams are free to negotiate with any available team.