The Yankees are ditching a few of their classic minor league affiliates in 2021, the first part of a large shakeup league-wide.
After a complete washout of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season, the Yankees have chosen to be trend-setters before 2021.
There’s about to be a major shakeup across the entire nation’s cadre of minor-league affiliates, with a number of long-time franchises on the chopping block, and several leagues (like the Appalachian League) likely transitioning away from affiliated action completely and becoming college wood-bat leagues.
The Yankees, though, aren’t only going to experience a paring down of their affiliates. They’re also making a few inter-league switches, and they’re going to promote an unaffiliated team into the big time, which is an unprecedented action.
Baseball America reported on Friday night that the team would be abandoning the Double-A Trenton Thunder, Single-A Charleston RiverDogs, and Short-Season Staten Island Yankees. In Staten Island’s place, the Yanks would then adopt the Hudson Valley Renegades, formerly associated with the Rays. Instead of the Thunder, New York plans to affiliate with the Somerset Patriots, formerly an independent league team.
No replacement for Charleston was announced.
The RiverDogs have been a feeder for the big club since 2005, while the Thunder, usually the standard rehab stop for Yankees stars in the New York area, switched their affiliation from the Red Sox to the Yanks in 2003.
Staten Island, a team founded specifically as a Yankees affiliate, came to be in 1999 thanks to the work of Mayor Guiliani. However, attendance has waned significantly in recent years, and this was a heavily-rumored divorce, as opposed to the other two surprise announcements.
Depressingly, we need to reckon with the reality that, by losing the Thunder, the Yankees may also be losing their famous Bat Dogs, who might not make the trek to Somerset.
The minor-league landscape is entering a depressing space in 2021, with a lot of long-time affiliates poised to evaporate. After all, fan-less games were not an option at all these small-town operations where fans are the name of the ballgame.
This is just step one in a multi-part slaughter of the developmental process, and our thoughts go out to the franchises affected. It’s going to be very odd.