Rangers likely to need new Triple-A home

Astros, Round Rock ex­pected to hook up, leav­ing few op­tions

The Dallas Morning News - - Sportsday - Twit­ter: @gfra­ley

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.

Gfra­ley@dal­las­news.com

GERRY FRALEY

Tom Reel/San An­to­nio Ex­press-News

Nel­son W. Wolff Mu­nic­i­pal Sta­dium in San An­to­nio will need a lot of up­grades to get it up to Triple-A stan­dards.

Spe­cial Con­trib­u­tor/File Photo

The Rangers’ af­fil­li­a­tion with the Triple-A Round Rock fran­chise and its Dell Di­a­mond home is ex­pected to end.

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