The 51s’ six-year relationship with the New York Mets will end in September, and while the Mets know that Syracuse will be their new Triple-A home, the 51s are in a holding pattern.
Team president Don Logan said he has been getting questions daily about the 51s’ next partner. But he doesn’t know the answer and won’t for some time. There is a short window in which teams can communicate with potential partners, and deals must be signed by the end of September.
There probably will be a lot of movement between major league teams and Triple-A affiliates, and with the 51s moving into a new ballpark next season, they won’t be everybody’s last choice.
“If you go back over time, the Padres, they weren’t crazy about this facility,” Logan said. “The Dodgers weren’t crazy about this facility. The Blue Jays weren’t crazy about the facility or the proximity. The Mets aren’t crazy about the facility and the proximity, and now we’re going to have the finest facility in all of Minor League Baseball.
“And it’s going to be the No. 1 player development facility because we’ve taken great pains to make it that, so now we went from an afterthought to a facility anybody should want to be here.”
Here’s a look at which big league team might be in Las Vegas next season:
Not a possibility
First, let’s identify which franchises can’t come to Las Vegas.
Per Baseball Digest, the Rockies, Blue Jays, White Sox, Indians, Rays, Padres, Pirates, Cubs, Phillies, Reds, Cardinals, Marlins, Red Sox, Giants, Angels and Tigers have deals with their current affiliates through 2020.
The Mets bought the Syracuse Chiefs. The Braves own their Triple-A affiliate, too. The Yankees partly own their Triple-A team (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), and the Dodgers have a piece of the Oklahoma City franchise. More on them later.
Who that leaves
Excluding the Dodgers, that’s 19 teams out of the equation.
That leaves the Brewers, Astros, Athletics, Orioles, Royals, Diamondbacks, Twins, Rangers, Nationals and Mariners.
The Astros, who are affiliated with Fresno, are expected to switch to Round Rock, Texas. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan has ownership in the Express and is an executive adviser for the Astros. His son, Reid, founded the Express and is the Astros’ president of business operations.
That would push the Rangers out of Round Rock and probably to San Antonio, which currently doesn’t have a Triple-A franchise but will take over the one in Colorado Springs, which currently is the Brewers’ affiliate. Colorado Springs will lose its Triple-A franchise.
Teams expected to renew their contracts include the Royals, who are three hours from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Mariners, who are less than 40 miles from Triple-A Tacoma, Washington.
The Orioles have been in Norfolk, Virginia (Tidewater Tides), since 2007. The owner of the Tides, Maryland Baseball Holding, LLC, also owns the Orioles’ Double-A and Single-A advanced teams. Even if the Nationals wanted to move their Triple-A team there, a renewal with the Orioles seems more likely.
Rochester, New York, where the Twins currently partner, could be an option for the Nationals if the city doesn’t renew with the Twins.
Either the Nationals or Twins are likely to end up in the Pacific Coast League, but Las Vegas wouldn’t be a likely landing spot for either. Nashville would be.
That brings us to the teams that have a shot at playing in the 51s’ new stadium.
The Dodgers have a history in Las Vegas and would make sense geographically. They were affiliated with the 51s before, and scores of Dodgers fans live in Las Vegas. But because the Dodgers own part of their Triple-A team, they would need to sell their share before any Las Vegas reunion.
The Brewers could be a possibility, though it is more likely they will partner with Fresno.
All indications are the 51s would prefer a major league franchise based in the west, with two possibilities: Oakland and Arizona.
The Diamondbacks have been affiliated with the Reno Aces since 2009. Reno has a relatively new stadium, built in 2009, but there will be a new ballpark in Las Vegas. Also, shuttling players to Phoenix would be more convenient with shorter flights and more of them.
But the Diamondbacks appear to be the second-best option, behind ….
The Athletics might be “#RootedinOakland,” as they frequently promote, but their Triple-A team might not be as #RootedinNashville.
Aside from the current arrangement with the Mets in Las Vegas, Oakland and Nashville present the farthest minor league travel in the PCL. Plus, the A’s have a pattern of jumping at new stadiums across all levels.
The A’s could stay in Nashville, though it seems unlikely with better geographic options open. Fresno, which is less than three hours by car to the Bay Area, would be an option for them, but the A’s turned down Fresno as a partner in 2015.
While none of this is certain — and won’t be until September — Oakland currently seems most likely to become the 51s’ next major league partner.
How would that go over with Raiders fans, who are losing their NFL team to Las Vegas in 2020?