Want the Mets in the International League in 2015? It’s Rochester or Bust

If the Mets want a Triple-A affiliate closer than Las Vegas for the 2015 season, they would be well-advised to make some friends in Rochester in a hurry.

Yesterday, William Ladson reported that the Washington Nationals and the Syracuse Chiefs would extend their working agreement through the 2018 season.

A little history first. Following four years with the Buffalo Bisons from 2009 through 2012, in which the Bisons saw attendance decline, the Bisons sought an affiliation with the closer Toronto Blue Jays. That pushed the Mets west to Las Vegas and the 51s where they signed a two-year player development contract for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Remember, Player Development Contracts are almost always mutual, both the Major League and the Minor League team must want to be partners with each other. The exception is the 30th team. If the Mets and Las Vegas are the last big league team and the last minor league team without a dance partner at a given level AAA through a-ball, they are forced onto the floor together.

There are five teams in the East Coast(ish) International League with PDCs that expire at the end of 2014: Columbus Clippers (CLE), Durham Bulls (TB), Norfolk Tides (BAL), Pawtucket Red Sox (BOS), Rochester Red Wings (MIN).

1. Columbus, in a new ballpark, is very happy to be affiliated with Cleveland, which is just over two hours away.
2. Norfolk, which booted the Mets in 2006, when team representatives said things like “They took us for granted,” seems unlikely to be interested in returning to life as a Mets affiliate especially with a PDC with the geographically proximate Orioles in place.
3. Pawtucket isn’t leaving the Red Sox for anything.
4. Durham and Tampa have had a productive relationship for 15 years. I’m not sure what would make Durham jump from Tampa to the Mets.

So, if the Mets want to land an affiliation back in the International League for the 2015 season, Rochester is the move. However, two years ago, faced with a Mets franchise looking for a new International League affiliate, Rochester resigned with Minnesota. The Wings were 72-72 in 2012 and 77-67 in 2013.

Will this round be any different?

The other option for the Mets is a more eastern home in the Pacific Coast League. In particular, Nashville is planning on spending $150 in public and private money million on a new ballpark area, with roughly $50 million coming from the Nashville Sounds, a Brewers affiliate at the moment, for the ballpark and associated retail. In August, this was an $80 million project, but it keeps growing.

If the Mets are interested in a new ballpark in the PCL, the Las Vegas ownership group and developer Howard Hughes Corp is interested in a $65 million ballpark in Summerlin and expressed optimism in May that they could make the ballpark happen. There is now some opposition from unions regarding the $88 million project, which means at least someone is paying attention and thinks the plan has a chance to succeed.

So, the choices for the Mets: stay west and target a new ballpark or aim for the Red Wings?

 

The chart after the jump lists each International League franchise and their PDC status, as best as I could determine.

The 2014 International League PDC Scene


Franchise Affiliate PDC Expires Source
Buffalo Bisons Toronto Blue Jays 2016 MLB.com
Charlotte Knights Chicago White Sox 2020 MiLB.com
Columbus Clippers Cleveland Indians 2014 MLB.com
Durham Bulls Tampa Bay Rays 2014 BA
Gwinnett Braves Atlanta Braves Never
Indianapolis Indians Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 Indy Indians
Lehigh Valley IronPigs Philladelphia Philliies 2016 MiLB.com
Louisville Bats Cincinatti Reds 2016 Bats
Norfolk Tides Baltimore Orioles 2014 Tides
Pawtucket Red Sox Boston Red Sox 2014 BA
Rochester Red Wings Minnesota Twins 2014 Wings
Scranton Wilkes-Barre NYY Never Citizen’s Voice
Syracuse Chiefs Washington Nationals 2018 William Ladson
Toledo Mud Hens Detroit Tigers 2016 BA
18 comments
box231d
box231d

Bridgeport CT has a great ballpark Harbor Yard, just a thought, upgrade the Bridgeport Bluefish, currently an independent Atlantic League  team, to the Mets AAA affiliate. 

natew
natew

When did Charlotte extend its agreement?  That was the location I thought they could best take over as the White Sox are not close either. 


Hmm, to answer my own question it just happened at the winter meetings.  Charlotte has a new stadium on the way for 2014.  It's a little odd that they wouldn't want some open competition for their services as a franchise with a new stadium. 

rodvegas
rodvegas

I am a season ticket holder here in Vegas and was thrilled when the Mets came out here for 13/14. I am hearing strong rumors that the new stadium and complex will be ready for the season opener in '15....what the Wilpons and the Mets really need to concern themselves with is whether the 51's want them back AT ALL after the lease expires...there is no secret here that they are building this new facility so the Dodgers will come back ( their contract with Albuquerque ends in 14).

Would not shock me when all the musical chairs is over that the Mets are left with no AAA affiliate. The Wilpons have a terrible reputation with minor leagues affiliates ( check Buffalo, NO, and Norfolk) . To be honest, in looking at the plans for the new stadium complex, the Mets should be grateful if the 51's let them back for 15....if the Dodgers come on board, they have no shot.

I have never understood this obsession with the writers in NY feeling that LV is like being in Siberia. Cashman field is a dump and the only reason I re-upped for another season ( besides having a front row seat for Thor) is so I would have first crack at good seats at the new facility. However, there are planes coming and going from this city to all parts of the country every hour on the hour so any need for a quick replacement is resolved in a hurry...I seriously doubt that Rochester can claim that.

IMO...knowing that DePo is here on the West Coast and is handling minor league activity for the organization would be reason enough for them to stay....with a beautiful new ballpark, it would stand to reason that the Mets would be and should be honored if the 51s allow them to stay. This yr should be a much better product on the field as actual prospects will be donning 51 jerseys...As a Met fan who believes this organization will never be good as long as the Wilpons own it, it would seem to me that a win win situation developing....if they stay, I get to see young Met prospects develop at a great facility....if they get thrown out, maybe with the embarrassment of having to play in Albuquerque ( if they want them) will finally be the nail in the coffin for these incredibly bad baseball people to finally sell and give us a t least a shot to be a competitive team without budget restraints....the simple fact that the team has a top 5 evaluation worth close to 2 billion and the 22nd payroll with one of the highest ticket prices stands and to have a team that is 6 miles to the north dump 28M as a luxury tax which would be 35 per cent of Met payroll are a few good reasons to know that we are getting the shaft once again with a team that will win 70 games again...

My vote is for them to stay here in Glitter city....they can do a lot worse.

pundit18
pundit18

There is one overlooked advantage to playing in Vegas. Warm weather in April. This can be important in AAA, where guys who might get called up are protected from early-season hammies.

Jeff Steinberg
Jeff Steinberg

I vote for the Rockland Boulders stadium as a Triple A affiliate, instead of being an independent Can-Am league team. Las Vegas doesn't need a minor league team...nobody goes to las vegas to watch baseball anyway.

Derpy
Derpy

Mets are in a rough situation here, but there are worse things than hanging out in Vegas for a few years.

JoeBourgeois
JoeBourgeois

Until the Mets get lil' Jeffy's hands off the office, they're gonna be stuck in Vegas.

xgamblorx
xgamblorx

In addition to Nashville, also east of the MIssissippi in the PCL with an expiring PDC is New Orleans. I don't know how the Zephyrs feel about their previous time with the Mets or about their current run with the Marlins, but that seems like a better environment than Vegas.

emmanuel13
emmanuel13

@box231dmy goodness yes yes yes. i live in norwalk ct and would be more than happy to attend the games if any mets affiliate played there!

natew
natew

@rodvegas 

There are 30 big league teams and 30 AAA franchises... there is no way the Mets end up with no AAA team.  

The reputation for Vegas not being wanted as a AAA franchise is warranted.  Not only were the Mets stuck with Vegas, but Toronto ended up in the same spot years earlier when they got the shaft and were the last team standing without a partner.  


It's all on the facilities and not the city, so the new facilities will go a long long way in how Vegas is viewed as a future AAA partner for mlb.  As the PCL teams update to keep up with each other, other older places will fall into the least desirable slot.  There are also cities that PCL franchises have moved out of recently and those cities could be competition to steal an ownership group away.  This fuels the updating competition as well. 


Obviously they will be a much better match for any mlb teal with the new stadium and facilities, and without they likely end up losing their franchise to another city. 

wnymetsfan
wnymetsfan

@Jeff Steinberg However, it does not work that way. There are 30 tokens that grant 30 teams the right to be a AAA affiliate. The only way to make a team like the Rockland Boulders a AAA team would be to purchase one of the existing teams and move them to the new location. You cannot just up and decide to create a AAA wherever you want. The same goes for all of the other levels as well. It was why Ottawa when they were thinking of going after a AA team targeted Binghamton who historically does not draw well. They were going to try and purchase the team and move it and its AA token to Ottawa.

Mark Kelly
Mark Kelly

@JoeBourgeoisI actually blame Omar more than Jeffy in this instance. Omar was GM from 2004-2011. The Bisons were an affiliate from 2009-2012. 


Over that time the bisons were 66-77(indiands), 56-87, 76-68, 61-82, 2012 they were 67-76 for reference:


Over those 3 overlapping years here are the prominent guys on those rosters:

2009: Chip Ambres, Jesus Feliciano, Javier Castillo, Mike Lamb, Argenis reyres, Nick Evans

2010: Evans, Duda, Russ Adams, Mike Cervineak 

2011: Jesus Feliciano, Luis Hernandez, Nick Figgorerora

Each year there were a bunch of rehabbers there for a dozen games. 

Since sandy took over players actually spend time at AAA... like most GM's do. This obviously has attendance benefits, along with the development benefits. 


wnymetsfan
wnymetsfan

@xgamblorx If I remember correctly the Mets were not too happy with New Orleans which is one reason they jumped to Buffalo. The thing about Buffalo and the declining attendance is that it was declining well before the Mets got there and I would interested to know if the Blue Jays as an affiliate led to that changing at all. Toronto is closer than NYC but I do not think many people from Toronto are traveling to Buffalo to see their AAA prospects.

xgamblorx
xgamblorx

@wnymetsfan @xgamblorx Bisons attendance was up about 900 fans a game on average in 2012 as compared to 2013 (from 7,370 to 8,273). A 12% attendance bump is not insignificant. The Jays and Bisons only play about 100 miles apart so it's not unfeasible that fans from Canada were making the trip.


I recall the Mets' unhappiness with New Orleans being more about being in the PCL and the relatively long distance between PCL stadiums for the Zephyrs. Not sure if they still bus everywhere (the 51's fly to most of their road games) but if you're going to be in the PCL either way, it seems like New Orleans would be more attractive than Vegas. 

Mark Kelly
Mark Kelly

@xgamblorx@wnymetsfanXgamblorx, a 12% Bump is Massive, not sure where your getting those numbers from though. 


From the Attendance at Baseball reference 2013 was 537,747 and 2012 was 515, 898. There are about 70 games a year and the difference is 21, 849... over 70 games is 312 tickets a game...2013 attendance a game was 7,683 and 2012 was 7,370 so this is a 4% attendance bump... still large.


But 2011 attendance was: 521,530 2010: 575,296 ans 2009 was 529,789... 2008 while they were the indians: 590,386 2007:572,635 2006:607,929 2005:596,194

Winning seasons were 2005-2007.. 2008 they had a losing season and flipped to the mets. The mets year they had 575K they had a winning record. and last year the Blue Jays had a winning record. 

There are a bunch of reasons why attendance is down, one being the downturn that area had when the financial crisis hit. It was hit very very hard up there, if you've never been through that area of NY you wouldn't know... Additionally the mets had AWFUL teams in AAA for 3 of the 4 years they were and affiliate there. That had as much to do with it as anything. 

Mark Kelly
Mark Kelly

@xgamblorx@wnymetsfan @wnymetsfan by that logic nobody would go to brooklyn, binghampton, St. Lucie, Savannah, etc etc etc...

While i agree the home team franchise of the team has little to do with attendance as a whole, but the uber toronto fans probably account for that little bump... ALong with the fact the mets AAA teams were a complete and utter disaster under Omar. He jumped most of the guys from AA-majors leaving the AAA for has beens... WINS are still important for AAA teams, as nobody wants to go see a 50 win AAA team, same as nobody wants to see a 65-70 win MLB team.  That was the ultimate problem. 

I've been to a half dozen or so Bisons games being i had family who lived in the area, i believe they were a Braves affiliate at the time. It's fun to go to, it's fun to see players you know whether they are old and has beens or up and commers. The mets did a poor job with Buffalo when they had their franchse there.