The New York Mets are leaving Las Vegas . . . eventually.
The Mets have reached an agreement to purchase the Syracuse Chiefs, according to Syracuse.com. The purchase agreement is expected to be announced at a press conference on Tuesday.
With the move, the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate will play in Syracuse beginning with the 2019 season. Because teams are currently heading into the second year of the two-year affiliation agreements, Syracuse will continue to be a Nationals affiliate for 2018. The Mets’ Triple-A affiliate will play in Las Vegas for the upcoming season as well.
But after this sale, the Mets will soon have a more fitting, and much closer, Triple-A home. For the Mets, Las Vegas was too far away from a player promotion standpoint—bringing up a player from Triple-A was usually a cross-country trip. New York’s Double-A team is in Binghamton, so the club will now have its top two minor league teams in its home state. The two affiliates are just 75 miles apart.
New York has been affiliated with Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League for the past five seasons. The marriage was long one of necessity. The 51s were the last remaining Triple-A affiliate in 2012 when Buffalo opted to align with the Blue Jays because they were unhappy with the team’s success as a Mets’ affiliate. Buffalo went 56-97 in its first season as a Mets’ affiliate and had losing records in three of their four years together.
The Chiefs purchase will give the Mets a stability that has been somewhat lacking for its Triple-A affiliate, as the club's Triple-A team has often been sent packing. While New York has spent the past five seasons in Las Vegas, the team has had four different Triple-A affiliates in the past 12 seasons. Before moving to Las Vegas, the team had spent four years in Buffalo, preceded by a two-year stint in New Orleans. That move to New Orleans came after Norfolk ended a 37-year partnership with the Mets, citing a lack of communication from the Mets' front office.
The Mets will have no such worries in the future. Teams are guaranteed affiliates at each of the four full-season levels (low Class A, high Class A, Double-A and Triple-A), and similarly minor league clubs are guaranteed a major league organization to provide players. But more and more, major league teams are finding it advantageous to purchase minor league affiliates to ensure that they don’t end up stuck in less-than-ideal environments.
After spending two years watching its pitchers struggle to pitch at hitter-friendly Lancaster in the California League, the Red Sox purchased the Carolina League’s Salem franchise before the 2009 season to ensure they would avoid any further high Class A issues. The Rangers and Astros bought California League franchises and moved them to Kinston and Fayetteville, N.C., and the Brewers have recently completed their long-rumored purchase of high Class A Carolina.
The Chiefs have been community owned, with shares of the club spread among a wide number of shareholders. They’ve been a Nationals affiliate since the 2009 season after a 30-year tenure with the Blue Jays (1978-2008).