WASHINGTON – The New York Yankees announced a shakeup of their minor league system on Saturday, with their Double-A team moving in New Jersey from Trenton to Somerset of the Atlantic League for 2021.
Trenton had been in the Eastern League, also the home of the Harrisburg Senators in the Nationals’ farm system, since 1994 and a farm team of the Yankees since 2003.
But it appears for now anyway, the Nationals won’t have a minor league affiliate in Waldorf, Maryland at the home of the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs – also of the Atlantic League.
Courtney Knichel, general manager of the Blue Crabs, told Federal Baseball on Monday she has not talked with the Nationals or Orioles about becoming a minor league affiliate in 2021.
“We have not had those conversations at this time but we welcome any phone calls,” she said.
“We would definitely have a conversation (but) we are a happy part of the Atlantic League.”
The Blue Crabs had to furlough some sales staff this year, after the season was called off, she said.
Regency Furniture Stadium held 92 events from July 1 till the end of October once the baseball season was called off as a result of the pandemic.
With the working agreement between Major League Baseball and the minors expiring at the end of September, and a new partnership between MLB and the indy Atlantic League, the affiliate shuffle for farm clubs could be intense and freewheeling in the coming days and weeks.
“The minor leagues and Major League Baseball are going through a lot right now,” Knickel said.
Not only did the working agreement end this fall, but the pandemic has greatly reduced revenue and forced many Major League teams – including the Nationals and Orioles – to implement furloughs and/or layoffs.
There is no certainty the 2021 season will be started with a full array of fans in the stands at the Major or minor league level.
And the affiliation musical chairs has just begun.
“Hopefully we can get a resolution soon. I don’t think there is any deadline. We just need to know what teams are going to be in our league,” Knichel said.
The Atlantic League partnered with MLB during 2019 to try out some new rules at the pro level.
One of them allowed a batter to “steal” first base.
A batter could take off for first with an errant toss by the pitcher, and that is what Tony Thomas of the Blue Crabs did in July 2019 when an 0-1 pitch by Alejandro Chacin of the visiting Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers went to the backstop and became a live ball.
“I just took off,” Thomas, 34, drafted out of Florida State by the Cubs in 2007, told this reporter last year.
Knichel was open to the new rules last year. Now she and others just hope a season can begin on time in 2021.
“We feel blessed to be a partner league of Major League Baseball,” Knichel said.
“We are planning like we will have a 2021 season,” said Knichel, while adding that she doesn’t know if Opening Day will be delayed.
NJ.com reported this past weekend the minors will be trimmed from 160 teams to 120.
Baseball America and the New York Times reported on the possible cuts in 2019.