WASHINGTON — The New York Mets’ 2017 season ended last week (and arguably months before that), but they secured one last victory over their division rivals: by signing the Syracuse Chiefs away from the Washington Nationals.
The Nats will play one more season with their International League affiliate before the Mets take control starting in 2019.
The move is fairly commonplace in minor league affiliate negotiations, where parent clubs rarely sign farm teams for longer than two years at a time. The Nats showed loyalty to the Chiefs in their last negotiations, signing the team to a four-year deal in 2013, rebuffing advances from the Mets at the time.
The move by the Mets makes lots of sense, swapping a team that’s also in New York state for its current affiliate in Las Vegas, Nev. This will allow the team to call up players are much shorter notice and have them available right away.
Starting in 2019, the Mets will have three affiliate teams, including AA and AAA, all in the state of New York. The other two are AA Binghamton and low-A short season is in Brooklyn.
The move technically still requires approval by the lease-holding stockholders of the Community Baseball Club of Central New York.
Part of the move is likely motivated by financial trouble, as the team is owned by the community and not one of the Major League teams. The team has been community-owned since 1961, but in the increasingly competitive sports market, that’s increasingly infeasible.
The Chiefs have been around since 1934, and have been affiliated with the AAA International League since 1958. They have previous relationships with the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox.
Since the Nats began their relationship with the team, the Chiefs have operated at a financial loss every season except 2010.
So where do the Nats go from here? MASN’s Byron Kerr put forth a scenario in which D.C., looking to pull the same maneuver, could look to swipe the Richmond Flying Squirrels from the San Francisco Giants and move them from AA to AAA. The trouble is that any such move there would likely have to wait until their contract ends in 2020.
For now, the nats are covered in Syracuse through next season. After that, anything is possible.