Batting Around: MLB clubs nab affiliates

Syracuse, Hickory, Carolina purchased by their parent teams

The Mudcats finished second in the Carolina League South in their first year of Brewers affiliation. (Patrick Cavey/MiLB.com)

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | November 3, 2017 10:00 AM ET

The previous edition of this column covered, in part, the Mets' purchase of the Triple-A Chiefs. Syracuse, a community-owned club, will become New York's Triple-A affiliate in 2019.  

This offseason, there have been two other instances of Major League clubs purchasing one of their farm teams. On Oct. 3, shortly after the conclusion of their first season of affiliation, it was announced that the Brewers had finalized their purchase of the Class A Advanced Carolina Mudcats. Brewers general manager David Stearns remarked that ownership of the club "will give us an opportunity to continue to enhance what is already a first-class operation on both the business and baseball sides."

The move also gives the Brewers more stability in their farm system, which has been in short supply in recent seasons. The club's previous Class A Advanced affiliate, the Brevard County Manatees, relocated to Kissimmee, Florida at the conclusion of the 2016 season. In 2014, on the cusp of moving into a new stadium, the Triple-A Nashville Sounds declined to renew their affiliation with Milwaukee and the organization had to settle for the suboptimal conditions of Colorado Springs. That Colorado Springs club, the Sky Sox, will shift to the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2019, meaning Milwaukee will once again have to scramble for a Triple-A affiliate after the 2018 season.

Batting Around

On Oct. 12, the Texas Rangers announced the purchase of the Class A Hickory Crawdads. The two teams had been affiliated since 2009. The Rangers now have their Class A and Class A Advanced affiliates in North Carolina, both of which they own. Following 2016's California League retraction and the corresponding Carolina League expansion, Texas bought the franchise that became Kinston's Down East Wood Ducks.

Meanwhile, the Mets' purchase of the Chiefs is proceeding apace. On Oct. 19, Syracuse sent out a press release stating that a shareholder meeting to approve the sale of the club will take place on Nov. 17. The purchase price is $18 million, netting approximately $1,400 per share. The Chiefs followed this up with an Oct. 30 release outlining the reissue procedures for "shareholders whose shares were deemed abandoned and escheated." Syracuse.com then published a story listing some the shareholders with abandoned stock, headlined by late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Mobile on the move?

Hank Aaron Stadium, home of the Double-A BayBears, opened in 1997. It's hardly ancient, but nonetheless, it's the oldest stadium in the Southern League and the team has finished last in the circuit in attendance the past three seasons. The Mobile franchise is in the process of being sold, possibly paving the way for relocation to a proposed site in Madison, Alabama.

Offseason MiLB include

Madison is located in the greater Huntsville, Alabama area. The Stars played in that region through 2014, then moved to Biloxi the next season following years of declining attendance at deteriorating Joe Davis Stadium. Huntsville area TV station WAFF reported last month that "[new owners] BallCorps will immediately request relocation to Madison, Alabama upon final approval and closing sale of the team with an anticipated date of 2019 to play in Madison."

Mobile's WHNT followed up with a story headlined "Mobile city leaders aren't giving up the BayBears without a fight" with Mayor Sandy Stimpson saying "Until it is a done deal, I hope the city of Mobile is in play."

Upgrades in St. Lucie

With the exception of the Daytona Tortugas and Florida Fire Frogs, every team in the Class A Advanced Florida State League plays in a facility also used by a Major League team during Spring Training. In recent years, several of these facilities -- Tampa's Steinbrenner Field, Lakeland's Joker Marchant Stadium, Fort Myers' Hammond Stadium -- have undergone significant renovations.

Soon to be added to this list is First Data Field, home of New York Mets' Spring Training and the FSL's St. Lucie Mets. On Oct. 22, Port St. Lucie City Council unanimously approved a $55 million renovation. TCPalm.com reported that improvements include a 360-degree concourse and "the addition of 38,767 square feet to the stadium." The renovations are slated to begin after 2018 Spring Training.

In brief

The Class A Advanced Potomac Nationals, in need of a new ballpark, have signed a lease extension at their current Pfitzner Stadium home that runs through 2020.

In Boise, Idaho, political leaders and the public at large continue to debate the merits of a new downtown stadium. The proposed facility would host the Class A Short Season Northwest League's Boise Hawks, as well as a variety of other sporting entities and events.

The Double-A Hartford Yard Goats' home of Dunkin' Donuts Park opened in 2017, following a season-long delay. The next challenge for the city is to develop the 16 acres of land that surrounds the ballpark.

Speaking of: The proposed site of a new ballpark for the Pawtucket Red Sox is surrounded by 50,000 square feet of land that could be transformed into retail space.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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