Rangers likely to need new Triple-A home
Astros, Round Rock expected to hook up, leaving few options
The Rangers are set to jump into the affiliation shuf f le. Five Triple-A franchises, all
in the Pacific Coast League, lack an affiliation with a major league club. They are Fresno, Las Vegas, Nashville, Round Rock and San Antonio.
Five major league clubs need an affiliation with a Triple-A franchise. They are Houston, Milwaukee, Oakland, Washington and the Rangers.
A two-week negotiating window opens Sunday. It should be simple to pair up teams.
It’s not, at least for the Rangers.
The Rangers have expected to be booted out of Round Rock ever since their messy
divorce from Nolan Ryan. His Ryan-Sanders Baseball owns the franchise and is expected to align itself with Houston.
Nolan Ryan is an executive adviser with the Astros. Reid Ryan, his older son, is the club’s president, business operations.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels declined to comment on the Round Rock situation. In May, Daniels told the Austin American-Statesman that “we understand the factors in play and certainly have respect for the role that family plays.”
Eliminate two more potential landing spots. The Rangers have not been interested in Fresno and Las Vegas for concerns ranging from proximity to playing conditions.
Fresno is about 1,500 miles from Arlington, and there are only two non-stop flights a day to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. That would make it difficult to bring in replacement players on short notice and for club executives to observe the team.
Las Vegas is moving into a new ballpark, but it will remain a tough spot for pitchers because of the desert climate. Las Vegas had a 5.83 ERA this season as a New York Mets affiliate. The Rangers would not want to expose young pitchers to those conditions.
That leaves Nashville and San Antonio for the Rangers. Do they want a modern ballpark with excellent infrastructure or a marketing opportunity?
Nashville has the ballpark. First Tennessee Park opened in 2015 and has the infrastructure teams want for prospects: athletic training and weight rooms, expansive batting cages, a good playing surface.
Washington is also interested in Nashville. The Nationals can provide more Triple-A ready talent than the Rangers.
That is significant because Major League Rule 59 bars teams from offering extra financial benefits to potential affiliates. The minor league operators will take the nextbest thing: a winning team that stokes fan interest.
San Antonio offers a way for the Rangers to maintain a presence in central and south Texas, where the Astros are making inroads. That is why the Rangers have participated in weekend spring training games in San Antonio.
The ballpark is the concern in San Antonio.
When the Elmore Sports Group decided to move its Triple-A franchise from Colorado Springs after this season to San Antonio, it expected to have a new downtown ballpark near completion.
That plan went away with a change in city administrations. The relocated Triple-A club in San Antonio will have to play in Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium, about eight miles west of downtown near Lackland Air Force Base.
The ballpark has housed a club in the Double-A Texas League since opening in 1994. It needs a lot of work. It is a basic park, well below TripleA standards and without the features that clubs have come to expect for players.
“What we do know is this stadium doesn’t fit the Triple-A facility standards,” San Antonio Missions president Burl Yarbrough told the San
Antonio Express-News in 2017. “Part of it is the capacity of the stadium. The other part is amenities for the players.”
That could hurt the Rangers in the pursuit of six-year minor league free agents, which every organization uses to fill out the Triple-A club. If the Rangers land in San Antonio, they will have to do some quick fixer-upper work on the place. The affiliation shuffle is not easy.
Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium in San Antonio will need a lot of upgrades to get it up to Triple-A standards.
The Rangers’ affilliation with the Triple-A Round Rock franchise and its Dell Diamond home is expected to end.