The Yankees officially announced on Saturday they will move affiliates to Somerset, N.J. and Hudson Valley, N.Y. beginning with the 2021 season. The moves were first reported by Baseball America.
It is a massive change. Only one full-season team will be remaining in the same city and level as it was previously for the Yankees.
The Yankees announced their Triple-A affiliate will remain at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The RailRiders have been a Yankees affiliate for 15 seasons. Every other full-season club will be moving either to a new location or new level.
The Yankees’ Double-A affiliate will shift from Trenton, N.J. to Somerset. The Somerset Patriots are a founding member of the independent Atlantic League, which recently became a professional partner league to Major League Baseball.
At high Class A, the Yankees announced that they will affiliate with Hudson Valley, which was previously the Rays’ short-season New York-Penn League affiliate. The release does not announce which league Hudson Valley will be in, but its location in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. virtually ensures it will be part of the Mid-Atlantic League expected to be created.
The Yankees’ Tampa affiliate will move to low Class A. The announcement makes official the long- expected move of the Florida State League from high Class A to low Class A. Such a switch allows MLB teams to easily move players from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and extended spring training to low Class A teams playing at the same site.
The Yankees will also continue to operate teams in the Dominican Summer League and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
The announcements mean that Trenton, Charleston and Staten Island will no longer be Yankees affiliates. The Yankees’ Rookie-level affiliate in Pulaski has already announced it will be part of the Appalachian League’s switch to being a summer amateur wood bat league.
The Yankees announcement said that Trenton, the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate for 18 years, will be replaced by Somerset because the Yankees preferred Somerset’s facility.
“We thank the great city of Trenton and the Thunder owners for 18 years of collaboration and we wish them well, but this decision was made strictly on the basis of what we believe to be the best facility to develop our young players,” the statement said.
The release also said Trenton will be offered Somerset’s membership in the Atlantic League. Nothing prevents Trenton from being an affiliate of another MLB team going forward, but with the pairings for the 120 remaining affiliations largely settled according to multiple sources, there are likely few other affiliated options left on the table.
The Yankees also said Staten Island will be offered a spot in the Atlantic League.
“With the elimination of the Short-Season New York-Penn League, the Yankees carefully considered hosting their high (class) A affiliate in Staten Island. However, as the number of our minor league affiliates have been limited, we did not have the confidence that the organization could continue to allow us to develop our players in the best possible way, especially since the team would have to transition into a full-season (class) A affiliate,” the Yankees said in their statement.
While the Yankees’ release mentioned that Trenton and Staten Island will be offered spots in the non-affiliated Atlantic League, it only said that Charleston, a long-time member of the South Atlantic League, will no longer be part of the Yankees’ minor league umbrella.
Charleston is expected to land an affiliation with another MLB team.
“Restructuring our minor league affiliations—especially with the additions of Somerset and Hudson Valley — gives us greater continuity to streamline and improve the development of our minor league system,” Yankees senior vice president and general manager Brian Cashman said in the release. “The relationships we have formed with all of our teams will allow for a more consistent application of training with similarly aligned facilities in terms of structure, quality and ease of travel. We are confident that these changes will greatly benefit our players and Yankees fans for many years to come.”
The Somerset Patriots posted this video on Twitter celebrating their new role as a Yankees affiliate.
Trenton Thunder owner Joseph Plumeri released a statement Saturday evening. It is included below in full:
“Last night, we learned through the media, that New York Yankees management has made the calculated and ungracious maneuver to leave the urban setting of Trenton for the affluent confines of Bridgewater Township, leaving one of the finest facilities according to Major League Baseball without an affiliate. For the last 18 years, Trenton has served as the Yankees’ AA affiliate with many of the contributors to the Major League team’s recent success, having first worn the Thunder’s navy and gold, and had their Louisville Sluggers picked up by Rookie, Derby, and Chase – our team’s bat dogs, on their way to the Bronx.
‘This is about more than baseball; the Thunder is a pillar of the Trenton community. My heart breaks for the thousands of stadium workers, fans, and residents of this great city. This move by the Yankees removes a key source of income for Trenton. Despite repeated assurances that the Thunder would remain its Double-A affiliate over the last 16 months, the Yankees betrayed their partnership at the 11th hour. By doing so, the Yankees have misled and abandoned the Thunder and the taxpayers of Mercer County, who have invested millions of dollars over the years to ensure that Arm & Hammer Park remains one of the premier ballparks in America. While this community built the Yankees organization up and set minor league baseball attendance records, it seems the Yankees were only focused on trying to cut culturally diverse Trenton down in favor of a wealthy, higher socioeconomic area in Somerset.
‘On behalf of my fellow owners, Joseph Caruso and Joseph Finley, I want to thank Trenton and all of the Thunder faithful, along with our sponsors and our partners. To all Thunder players past and present — we thank you for your inspiring teamwork, your community involvement, and for bringing your very best to the diamond every day. You helped Trenton make memories on and off the field.
‘My father knew Trenton’s character, and he wanted to develop a franchise that could be shared for generations to come. We know the character of Trenton — it represents what the Yankees purport to be but are most certainly not. The Yankees’ actions are nothing short of despicable. They may be abandoning Trenton, but we are not. We will continue to invest in Trenton and its people because Trenton deserves it – maybe more than any other place in America.”