The proposed plan to eliminate as many as 40 minor league baseball teams has widely been reported. But with the 2020 season done and the previous agreement between Major League Baseball and the minor leagues, changes are happening fast. Unfortunately for the Philadelphia area, the Trenton Thunder, affiliated with the New York Yankees since 2003, will no longer be a Yankees minor league affiliate as news of the minor league realignment began. These moves give some insight into what lies ahead for the Phillies minor league system.
Here is a summary of the New York Yankees affiliates, as realigned, per team announcement:
- Scranton-Wilkes Barre will remain the Yankees Triple-A affiliate
- The team's Double-A affiliate will move to Somerset, New Jersey, from Trenton, New Jersey. The Somerset Patriots were formerly a member of the Independent Atlantic League.
- The High-A affiliate will now be housed where the Hudson Valley Renegades once played. The team plays in Wappingers Falls, New York, south of Poughkeepsie, New York, just east of the Hudson River
- The Tampa Tarpons, formerly the High-A affiliate, will now shift to Low-A
Phillies fans used to be able to see the Reading Fightin' Phils frequently in Trenton. But what will come of Arm & Hammer Park? That is currently unclear, though some have suggested that Trenton could be home to a new Atlantic League team. Philadelphia-area baseball fans used to have access to Atlantic League baseball in New Jersey in Camden (the Camden Riversharks) and Atlantic City (Atlantic City Surf).
Here is how the Phillies appear to be going, though nothing has been reported or confirmed:
- Lehigh Valley should be the Triple-A affiliate. The Phillies have partial ownership in the Allentown-based franchise, which opened in 2008.
- Double-A probably remains in Reading. The Fightin' Phils have some common ownership with the Triple-A club in Lehigh Valley and it seems likely the Phillies will stay in Reading.
- The High-A affiliate appears to be in Lakewood, New Jersey. The recently-branded "Jersey Shore BlueClaws" held an October press conference to announce the name change to "Jersey Shore" instead of Lakewood, where the team plays. The Phillie Phanatic was present for the announcement, which seems to indicate the Phillies will stay. The Yankees move of their High-A affiliate.
- Clearwater, then, appears to be poised to be the Low-A affiliate. The Phillies have had a Class-A affiliate in Clearwater since 1985 and is home to Phillies Spring Training and the Gulf Coast League. The latter probably stays, though we have no indication yet in one form.
- Williamsport appears to be out as a Phillies affiliate. Though Historic Bowman Field was recently renovated to meet Major League Baseball standards to host the annual Little League Classic, the Short-Season New York-Penn League appears to be folding. Williamsport could indeed host a team still, as we saw the Hudson Valley team will do. But there has been no announcement yet. Meanwhile, the @Crosscutters Twitter feed is active, with a hashtag #WeWillBeBack in the profile
Presumably, with the Yankees coming forward forth, there will be much more news about the minor leagues in coming weeks.