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One of the outcomes of MLB’s winter meetings that are currently ongoing in a virtual format, is that they have finally released the list of minor league teams who received invitations to join (or rejoin) major league teams as their affiliates.
For more on the entire shake-up of the affiliated minor leagues, Baseball America is probably the best source, but I’ll try to sum it up here.
Over the past year or so, MLB has been making overtures suggesting that there are a number of minor league facilities that just don’t measure up to the standards that they want to have for the young minor league players in their system and suggested contracting the affiliated minor leagues to just 120 teams (from approximately 163) plus the club’s rookie-level team at their complex and the club’s Dominican Summer League team (or teams). This would downsize most clubs to five (or six) teams in the US and one (or two) in the Dominican Republic.
This process has been very contentious with some teams losing their affiliations (like the Staten Island Yankees, who are suing MLB and the Yankees for terminating their affiliation) and others, who had been a part of independent leagues, gaining invitations to be affiliated with major league teams.
Additionally, entire leagues are going to be repurposed by MLB as wood-bat summer leagues for college players or players who will be draft eligible the following year, like the Appalachian League and several teams in the New York-Penn League.
If that wasn’t enough to wrap your head around, there is also going to be a realignment of certain minor leagues. For example, the Florida State League will not become a “Low-A” league, down from the “High-A” league that it was previously (note: I use the terms “Class-A” and “Advanced-A,” respectively). Joining the FSL in Class-A will be the California League and a league in the Southeast (consisting of teams from the former South Atlantic League and Carolina Leagues). In High-A will the the Midwest League, the Northwest League and a league in the Mid-Atlantic.
So what does this mean for the Blue Jays? Well, they had to make a choice. With the Bluefield Blue Jays gone from the affiliated minor leagues, they now would have the Dunedin Blue Jays as their “Low-A” or Class-A team but would have two teams playing at the “High-A” level if they retained an affiliation with both the Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League) and the Vancouver Canadians (Northwest League).
Oakland A’s beat writer Susan Slusser broke the news a little while ago that the Oakland A’s would be affiliating with Lansing and it was finally confirmed by official sources today with the A’s inviting the Lugnuts to be their affiliate and the Blue Jays extending the invitation to the Vancouver Canadians.
Effectively, the Blue Jays chose to go a route that made less sense geographically, with Lansing just a few hours away from Toronto, for one that makes more sense nationalistically. It has been reported that this decision was made at the upper levels of Rogers’ management, that the club would invite the the Vancouver Canadians to continue their very successful partnership with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Personally, I’m going to miss Lansing. I loved the ballpark, the staff, and especially Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, the longtime radio voice and media relations guru for the Lugnuts. I always felt like I was going home when I went to Lansing to cover the Jays’ minor leaguers. It also means that I’ll probably get less of a chance to see the Jays’ prospects when they go to Advanced-A in Vancouver, although, if funding allows it, I’d love to head to Vancouver once a year.
The Blue Jays invited both the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Buffalo Bisons to maintain their affiliations with Toronto at Double-A and Triple-A, respectively.
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