This is a little bit too long for a fanshot, I think, so please bear with me.
Today in the SF Chronicle, A's [fantastic] beat writer Susan Slusser penned this piece about the Sacramento River Cats' affiliation agreement with the Oakland Athletics. In particular, she reports that [again, she's a great reporter, so turn your NY media filters off for a bit] "Sacramento is looking to change affiliates, sources with both teams told The Chronicle". The article is a bit unclear as to who "both teams" are, but I think from the context she means SAC and OAK. Unsurprisingly, this dovetails with the Giants' desire to have an AAA affiliate closer to home, as most ML clubs have pushed for in recent years.
At 2PM PDT today, the River Cats' owners released this gripping response:
Though our player development contract with Oakland does expire after this year, we place the utmost value on our affiliation with the Athletics. This year, as in years past, we will perform an internal evaluation after the season has concluded. Our first priority has always been, and will continue to be, providing our fans with the best experience possible at Raley Field. This year is no different.
Since I imagine "best experience possible at Raley Field" means "more people driving up from San Francisco to put money in our pockets", I'm not sure this statement should give a lot of comfort to the Lew Wolff Condotel Construction Company and Also Baseball Team.
For those of you that are wondering what this has to do with the Amazins', it's also the case that the Mets' affiliation agreement with the Las Vegas 51s* is expiring this year. It may be a bit early to speculate about this, but I have read other articles expressing surprise that this kind of affiliation drama is already making this year look less like prior years' extravaganzas. If you look at Mike McCann's Minor League Page, you'll see that ELEVEN PCL teams' affiliation agreements are up for renewal this year (out of 16 total teams).
Only four are up in the International League: Durham/Tampa, Norfolk/Baltimore, Pawtucket/Boston, and Rochester/Minnesota. I'm not that familiar with the backgrounds on the IL agreements, but Durham has been with Tampa since they began, Pawtucket has been a Red Nex affiliate since 1973, and Rochester has been with the Twins since 2003. Baltimore/Norfolk is the only recent switch, and even they've been together since 2007.
I imagine that means the Mets will still be aligned with a PCL team after 2014, but the question will become which one. If the Giants end their affiliation with Fresno, that team may be attractive to the Angels (whose contract with Salt Lake expires this year) and the Dodgers (who have only been with Albuquerque since 2009). So if the Athletics lose out on Fresno (assuming they are interested in Fresno, which seems likely since their A+ affiliate is in Stockton, about halfway between Fresno and Oakland), they will be angling for a new home too. And as anyone here knows better than I, that is how the Mets ended up stuck in Vegas in the first place.
Of the other expiring PCL agreements, it looks like El Paso, New Orleans, and Albuquerque are the most recently minted arrangements. El Paso at least has a new ballpark and presumably greater current fan interest, but other than being one time zone closer to Queens I'm not sure what else they have going for them. One thing the Mets do have in their favor: anything they get will be better than what they have. So if there's a competition for Fresno (such an odd sentence to write), the chips may start falling in a way that makes for higher demand in the other PCL towns. Maybe the A's will take a turn in Las Vegas to have their affiliate at least in the Pacific time zone and take it off the Mets' hands.
If there is other reportage about minor league affiliations for the Mets, I hope you'll share it here as you discover it.
*=Tangentially related subject: I hope if nothing else the Mets can find an affiliate with a less idiotic mascot and less fugly logos/merchandise. At least the Montgomery Biscuit is funny.