The Nationals aren’t waiting until the annual affiliation shuffle after the season to lock up deals with their minor league partners.
The team announced today that they are extending player development contracts with four of their affiliates: Triple-A Syracuse (International), Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern), high Class A Potomac (Carolina) and short-season Auburn (New York-Penn).
The Nationals’ PDCs with Syracuse and Harrisburg were set to expire after this season and will now run through 2014. Washington had previously extended its contract with Potomac and their relationship is now guaranteed through the 2016 season.
Player development contracts between major and minor league teams are for a minimum of two years and may be extended in two-year increments. Teams can extend PDCs at any time but cannot negotiate with other affiliates until after the season concludes.
Taking Syracuse off the market leaves just five International League teams with contracts expiring after this season—Buffalo (currently affiliated with the Mets), Indianapolis (Pirates), Lehigh Valley (Phillies), Pawtucket (Red Sox) and Rochester (Twins)—with a couple likely to continue with their current agreements. That leaves few options for teams hoping to move their Triple-A club closer to home. The Blue Jays, for example, are entering their fourth season in Las Vegas but would be a likely candidate to relocate to Buffalo when the Mets’ deal expires after this season.
Meanwhile, eight Pacific Coast League teams are slated to become available after the season: Albuquerque (Dodgers), Fresno (Giants), Iowa (Cubs), Las Vegas (Blue Jays), Nashville (Brewers), New Orleans (Marlins), Oklahoma City (Astros) and Reno (Diamondbacks).
The Nationals deal with Potomac is an indication that the two sides have made up since the public feud last season between Washington general manager Mike Rizzo and P-Nats owner Art Silber over the playing conditions at Potomac’s Pfitzner Stadium. Potomac underwent a much-needed $250,000 renovation to the playing field during the offseason fixing drainage problems that forced the team to relocate a three-game series last year and led to Rizzo calling the field a “safety hazard.” Silber responded by saying the field is fine and that Rizzo “doesn’t know what he was talking about.”
The repair seems to have done the trick for the Nationals, which last year skipped top prospect Bryce Harper from low Class A Hagerstown directly to Double-A Harrisburg. And keeping a relationship with the local big league team makes sense for Potomac. Silber is also trying to put the finishing touches on a deal for a new ballpark in Northern Virginia.