As expected, the Mets have formally announced that they have extended offers for St. Lucie, Brooklyn, Binghamton, and Syracuse to serve as their minor league affiliates for the 2021 season and beyond. “We feel having a first-class player development system is crucial to achieving sustained success on the field, and all four of our affiliates are critical to that effort,” Mets team president Sandy Alderson said. “We are proud to have worked with such great leadership throughout the state and in each of these communities and are thankful for their continued support.” Given that all four franchises are owned, in full or in part, by the organization or are in situations in which they were specifically saved from contraction, all are expected to accept the invitations.
Purchased by the Mets in late 2017, Syracuse gave the organization a steady Triple-A affiliate. After mismanagement at the highest levels prompted their 38-year relationship with Norfolk to become severed, the Mets partnered temporarily with New Orleans before partnering with Buffalo. What optimally would have been a long-term relationship was cut short because of similar issues that Norfolk experienced, prompting the Mets to be forced to move their Triple-A affiliate to Las Vegas. The Mets’ relationship with Las Vegas proved solid, but the arrangement was not optimal for the organization, leading them to eventually purchase the Syracuse Chiefs.
Their Double-A affiliate since 1992, the Binghamton Mets enjoyed a lot of early success, but over the years, various factors led the organization to consistently struggle in attendance. In the early-to-mid-2010s, baseball in the city was under threat as the then-owners were looking to sell the franchise, but the new owners stayed in the Binghamton instead, investing in the franchise and rebranding as the Rumble Ponies in the process. The moved did not move the needle and baseball in Binghamton was thought to be on the shortlist to be contracted with baseball’s radical realignment of the minors, but the franchise escaped the chopping block with the formation of a new Mid-Atlantic League.
The new Mid-Atlantic League affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, was formerly the Mets’ Short-A affiliate. With the elimination of the designation and the New York-Penn League as a whole, Brooklyn was due to be contracted themselves, but the franchise simply proved too valuable to simply eliminate. The 2019 New York-Penn League champions, Brooklyn was considered by baseball fans and executives to be a minor league baseball mecca, as evidenced by the attendance records and numerous accolades the organization and stadium received over the years. Early plans seemed to indicate that Brooklyn was going to have their affiliation bumped up to Double-A, but with the formation of a new Mid-Atlantic League, the Mets were able to change the Cyclones’ designation to High-A and preserve both teams instead.
Formerly their High-A affiliate, the St. Lucie Mets will be operating as the Mets’ Low-A affiliate going forward, as the Florida State League was downgraded. The Mets have played in the city since 1988, when the organization moved their Florida spring training complex to the city from St. Petersburg. The move makes sense given that most Gulf Coast League teams in their affiliate’s spring training facility, guaranteeing a seamless transition from Rookie-level to Low-A ball when a player is promoted.
The Columbia Fireflies, formerly the Mets’ Low-A affiliate, will be a Kansas City Royals affiliate for 2021 and beyond. “There has been a lot of anticipation regarding the restructuring of Minor League Baseball. We’re excited that the Fireflies have been invited to join. We look forward to the details being worked out and giving fans in Columbia an opportunity to enjoy top-quality professional baseball for years to come,” said Fireflies president John Katz. The relationship between the Mets and the Fireflies was strong, but with the Florida State League becoming a Low-A league, Columbia became redundant. The termination of the affiliation is unfortunate, as the Mets have been a presence in the city for decades. Factoring in their relationship with the Fireflies and the Capital City Bombers before them, the last minor league team in the city not affiliated with the Mets were the Columbia Reds, who last played in 1961.