Keep Your Farm Teams Close to the Vest, or Something Like That

It was announced this week that the Houston Astros are looking to join the recent trend of teams locating their Triple-A affiliate nearby to the parent club.

While the exact location of the relocation is still a few years from becoming a reality, what is known is that Oklahoma City’s days of hosting the Astros Triple-A club are most likely numbered when the current partnership agreement expires in 2015.

The current plan calls for the new team to be located in an area known as the Woodlands which is around 25 miles away from the Astros.

By targeting a community 25 miles or so away from the home ballpark certain sales and other front office areas can be combined and streamlined in addition to other cost savings measures.

And the current Astros ownership has made it abundantly clear on numerous occasions that they believe in cost cutting measures.

I am not saying that teams should not cut costs wherever they can, but I am somewhat troubled by the notion of combining the Triple A and parent clubs into a single entity in basically the same television market.

Aside from potentially saturating an already pro Astros market with a cheaper alternative to watch (At least I hope that tickets to see the Triple-A team would be less than tickets to see the Astros) there is the risk of damaging the Minor League Product by making it too similar to Major League Baseball.

Minor League Baseball is a completely different product from the Major League Baseball and I fear that some of the uniqueness of the Minor League version will get lost when combined under the same umbrella as the big club.

Currently the teams with the shortest distance between their parent clubs and Triple A clubs are the Seattle Mariners and the Atlanta Braves who each have a 36-mile buffer between the clubs. Photo R. Anderson
Currently the teams with the shortest distance between their parent clubs and Triple A clubs are the Seattle Mariners and the Atlanta Braves who each have a 36-mile buffer between the clubs.
Photo R. Anderson

I know that part of the role of a Triple-A club is to allow for the easy transfer of players in the event of a trade or injury that opens up a spot on the roster. So, being as close as possible in theory allows teams to have players on standby.

Of course, what is lost in that approach is the fact that teams still travel at the Minor League level so if you need to make a roster move during a road trip the distance could prove to be greater than desired to get the player where they need to be.

Currently the teams with the shortest distance between their parent clubs and Triple-A clubs are the Seattle Mariners and the Atlanta Braves who each have a 36-mile buffer between the clubs.

The award for longest distance between parent club and farm club goes to the New York Mets. After getting ousted from their affiliation with the Buffalo Bisons in favor of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Mets were forced to send their prospects to Las Vegas.

The Tampa Bay Rays and their Triple-A Club Durham Bulls are 692 miles apart. Photo R. Anderson
The Tampa Bay Rays and their Triple-A Club Durham Bulls are 692 miles apart.
Photo R. Anderson

And while what happens in Vegas allegedly stays in Vegas, when something happens and a player needs to leave Vegas to join the parent club in New York it is a 2500 mile journey for the minor Mets.

The average distance from a Triple-A team to their parent franchise is approximately 434 miles. The Astros are currently slightly above average distance with a 447 mile commute between Minute Maid Park and Oklahoma City.

The proposed move to a North Houston suburb would cut the distance to under 30 miles and likely make it the shortest distance of any team.

The Texas Rangers took over Round Rock from the Astros a couple years ago and travel a distance of 181 miles when shuffling between the Ballpark at Arlington and the Dell Diamond.

The Texas Rangers' Triple-A affiliate the Round Rock Express are 181 miles away from the parent club. Photo R. Anderson
The Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate the Round Rock Express are 181 miles away from the parent club.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, many puzzle pieces have to fall into place before the proposed move can happen.

For starters, since there are only 30 affiliated Triple-A teams one will need to be purchased and relocated in order to become the Astros farm team.

The likely candidate is the New Orleans Zephyrs but, as a move is several years away, there can be other teams added to the mix between now and then.

Another important step, and perhaps the most important step if Field of Dreams is to believed, is the need to build it so they will come. With stadium construction taking a year or two land will need to be identified and a stadium built long before a team can move here.

There is a perfectly feasible Triple-A ready stadium already located in Sugarland, TX; which is about 25 miles south of Minute Maid Park. But, since that stadium is already home to the Skeeters it is unlikely that it would be a candidate for the Astros to use. Although, one never knows what can happen over the next couple of years and it might turn out that the Skeeters are the option that makes the most sense.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about Minor League Baseball has me itching for a road trip. Tune in next time to find out where I go.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

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