Yankees Moving Minor League Affiliates To Somerset, Hudson Valley In 2021

UPDATE: The Yankees officially announced their affiliation structure on Saturday.

Some of the biggest pieces in the composition of Minor League Baseball for 2021 and beyond have fallen into place.

According to multiple sources, the New York Yankees will no longer be affiliated with the Trenton Thunder, Charleston RiverDogs and Staten Island Yankees in 2021 and beyond. The Yankees are part owners of their Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team.

The Yankees are moving their Double-A affiliate to Somerset, N.J., The Somerset Patriots have long been a member of the independent Atlantic League. Baseball America first reported the possibility of Somerset’s move to affiliated ball in June. 

The Atlantic League is now a professional partner league of Major League Baseball after coming to an agreement on closer ties to MLB in the past few months. The league’s teams acquire and pay their own players independent of the MLB minor league roster system.

Hudson Valley, located in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., will become a Yankees Class A affiliate. The Yankees other Class A affiliate is the Yankees-owned Tampa Tarpons in the Florida State League. Hudson Valley had previously been the Rays’ short-season affiliate in the New York-Penn League. 

MLB is eliminating short-season affiliated leagues in its minor league structure, so the move up to full-season baseball preserves affiliated baseball in Hudson Valley.

The Yankees’ move to Somerset also likely clears the way for the Mets to move their Double-A affiliate to Brooklyn, which has previously been the club’s short-season New York-Penn League affiliate. Somerset and Brooklyn fall within the territorial rights of the other New York team. By making simultaneous moves, both sides receive consideration from the other to make such a move.

Brooklyn is owned by new Mets owner Steve Cohen. The club was part of the sale of the Mets from the Wilpon family, which closed on Friday.

The resolution of the Yankees minor league affiliates has long been one of the most intriguing and confusing of all the affiliation shuffles taking place to finalize the 120 affiliated teams. It marks yet another sign that the more than year-long negotiations for the structure of the minor leagues are nearing a resolution.

It is not yet clear what the Yankees’ decision will mean for Trenton, Charleston, S.C. (the Yankees’ current low Class A affiliate) and Staten Island’s potential to remain in affiliated baseball. Teams can affiliate with other MLB clubs.

Major League Baseball has promised on multiple occasions that it will offer the opportunity for high-level baseball in any currently affiliated city that loses its affiliated team. MLB recently presented a proposed summer amateur wood-bat league option to New York-Penn League teams.

MLB has been in talks for more than a year with MiLB’s negotiating committee over the structure of the minors beginning in 2021. The Professional Baseball Agreement between MLB and MiLB expired at the end of September. After the PBA expired, MLB indicated its intention to take over operations of Minor League Baseball that were previously run through MiLB’s offices in St. Petersburg, Fla.

MLB has also indicated its intention to replace the affiliation agreements that previously governed the relationships between minor league franchises and their MLB affiliates with Professional Development Licenses (PDLs) that will last for up to 10 years.

It is expected that the full slate of 120 remaining affiliated teams, down from the 160 that were part of Minor League Baseball in 2020, will be unveiled by MLB in the next couple of weeks.

The Staten Island Yankees noted the New York Yankees have been publicly supportive of the club, referencing a statement by Yankees President Randy Levine in Nov. 2019.

“There are negotiations currently taking place between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball,” Levine said. “We have been assured today that there have been no decisions made regarding the elimination of the Staten Island Yankees. We support the Staten Island Yankees and their facility, and people should give the negotiations a chance to conclude before speculating on any outcome.”

“If this is true, the Staten Island Yankees will explore all legal options,” said Will Smith, President/Operating Partner of the Staten Island Yankees.

Joe Finley, owner of the Trenton Thunder; Steve Kalafer, owner of the Somerset Patriots, the Goldklang Group, owners of the Hudson Valley Renegades and Charleston RiverDogs, and the New York Yankees have not responded to requests for comment at time of this story’s publication. 

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