The first news for the 2018 Affiliate Dance regarding a new relationship: the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and the Houston Astros are not renewing their player-development contract (PDC).
“Affiliation shifts are more the rule than the exception, it’s often inevitable. As MLB organizations evaluate their minor league operations over the length of any PDC, often their needs for Triple-A change,” said Fresno Grizzlies president Derek Franks.
“After a previous long-standing affiliation, it was truly a thrill to be welcomed into the ‘Astros family’ as Houston called it in 2015,” Franks continued. “We respect their decision, and understood when we first signed with them it was likely the relationship would last only four seasons. We are indebted to the Astros for the great quality of teams we’ve had the last four years. We look forward to similar success with our next MLB affiliate, and can’t wait to begin that new chapter of baseball in Fresno.”
Many affiliations were up at the end of the 2018 regular season, and teams had a period of time to renew or inform Minor League Baseball they were seeking a new affiliate. That the Astros and Grizzlies were not renewing is no surprise. The Astros are expected to return to the Round Rock Express (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) for their top farm team, as there are family links between the two teams (Ryan Sanders Baseball owns the Express; Reid Ryan is the Astros’ President of Business Operations).
“We appreciate the excellent partnership we have had with the Fresno Grizzlies for the past four seasons,” said Reid Ryan, President, Business Operations for the Astros. “We sincerely thank everyone in the organization and the community of Fresno for their unwavering support for the Houston Astros – they were key partners through our rebuild and World Series Championship season. We look forward to the next chapter and will announce our next MLB affiliate prior to the end of the month.”
There are six open affiliations in Triple-A baseball. The New York Mets purchased the Syracuse Chiefs (Class AAA; International League) and are expected to shift affiliation from the Las Vegas 51s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). With the Colorado Springs Sky Sox moving to San Antonio for 2019, it’s expected the Texas Rangers will shift affiliation from Round Rock to San Antonio. Las Vegas, Nashville and the aforementioned Fresno Grizzlies will be seeking new MLB partners from Oakland, Milwaukee and Washington. Nashville and Oakland have enjoyed a good relationship, but the allure of a new Las Vegas ballpark and an affiliate closer to Oakland may be too much to pass on. That would leave Milwaukee (a former parent of the Nashville Sounds) and Washington to negotiate with Fresno and Nashville.
You can read more about the current state of affiliations on our Affiliate Dance page. We expect a number of player development contracts to be renewed in the coming week, but there are always intriguing openings at every level of baseball. As you can see on the Affiliate Dance page, we’re now at the point where MLB and MiLB teams can search for new affiliation options, so there’s always a shuffle of sorts at the end of the season.