The New York Yankees are replacing their minor-league affiliates in Staten Island and Trenton, the team announced. Specifically, the Yankees are teaming up with the Somerset Patriots, formerly of the independent Atlantic League, to replace Trenton as their Double-A affiliate in New Jersey.
Meantime, Staten Island will leave the organization as part of MLB's minor-league contraction plan, which will eliminate the short season leagues between rookie ball and Low Class-A. The affiliate had been located in Staten Island since 1999. This will be the Yankees' new minor league structure beginning in 2021:
- Triple-A: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (remains)
- Double-A: Somerset Patriots (replacing Trenton Thunder)
- High-A: Hudson Valley Renegades (replacing Tampa Tarpons)
- Low-A: Tampa Tarpons (replacing Charleston RiverDogs)
- Rookie: Gulf Coast League Yankees and Dominican Summer League Yankees
The RiverDogs are expected to land an affiliation with another major-league organization. Hudson Valley joins the Yankees after being affiliated with the Rays as a short season team since 1996. They are moving up to High-A ball. Also, the Yankees had two affiliates in the GCL from 2013-20. They will be down to one GCL team starting in 2021.
Trenton and Staten Island have been offered spots in the Atlantic League, though their futures are unclear at the moment. Needless to say, this is unwelcome news for owners of the teams that are losing coveted affiliation with the Yankees brand. Trenton Thunder owner Joseph Plumeri released a statement in response to the decision, which reads in part:
"This move by the Yankees removes a key source of income for Trenton. Despite repeated assurances that the Thunder would remain its Double-A affiliate over the last 16 months, the Yankees betrayed their partnership at the 11th hour. By doing so, the Yankees have misled and abandoned the Thunder and the taxpayers of Mercer County, who have invested millions of dollars over the years to ensure that Arm & Hammer Park remains one of the premier ballparks in America. While this community built the Yankees organization up and set minor league baseball attendance records, it seems the Yankees were only focused on trying to cut culturally diverse Trenton down in favor of a wealthy, higher socioeconomic area in Somerset."
Staten Island Yankees president Will Smith released a similar statement on Monday. It read, in part:
The Staten Island Yankees made every effort to accommodate MLB and New York Yankees requirements, including securing a commitment from New York City for ballpark upgrades. However, MLB and the Yankees choose not to engage in any discussions with us. We were unaware of the final decision and learned about it by reading the statement on Yankees social media.
After careful consideration of locations in New York City, our ballpark was approved by the New York Yankees and built in St. George, Staten Island by the City of New York. It was planned and agreed-to in 1999 for the express purpose of hosting New York Yankees professional Minor League Baseball. We are shocked at the developments from this past weekend, and we believe what has happened to our organization is unacceptable.
The Yankees' shuffling of affiliates occurs against the backdrop of MLB's ongoing and controversial efforts to reduce the number of affiliated minor-league teams by 40 or so.