A report on Wednesday morning from the Richmond Times-Dispatch indicates that the Richmond Flying Squirrels will likely remain the Giants’ Double-A affiliate, despite interest in the Washington Nationals having their Triple-A team there.
Under the new minor league structure, Major League Baseball is taking the lead in assigning affiliations, although taking major league team preferences into account. The article indicates that the Giants director of player development Kyle Haines told the Times-Dispatch that their desire is to return to Richmond. Flying Squirrels owner Lou DiBella had no comment, but minor league teams have no influence on the selection of their parent club under the new system.
The Giants have been partnered with the Richmond Flying Squirrels since their inception in 2010, but had been affiliated with the team and their owner, Dibella, since 2003, when the Giants switched their Double-A affiliation to the then-Norwich Navigators, who later rebranded as the Connecticut Defenders and moved to Richmond in 2010.
Richmond is the former home of a Triple-A team, the Richmond Braves, but they moved in 2009 to northern Georgia, where they became the Gwinnett Stripers. That move was partially prompted by dissatisfaction over the stadium in Richmond. The Squirrels play at The Diamond, opened in 1985. There have been several plans to try and build a new stadium in Richmond, with a plan that was moving forward in early 2020 partnering with Virginia Commonwealth University, who shares use of The Diamond.
For Richmond to move to Triple-A, it would affect many other factors, but the move fits with other rumors. As of Wednesday, there have been heavy rumors of three teams being demoted from Triple-A: Fresno (to the California League), and Wichita and San Antonio (both to the Texas League). There have been only two additions to Triple-A that were clear: former independent teams the Sugar Land Skeeters and the St Paul Saints. That would leave one more spot open for Richmond to move into.
There would also need to be moves to Double-A, but that also fits, since Wichita and San Antonio would be moving down. Richmond would be a direct trade for one spot, but one other Double-A team would need to be eliminated. That could be Trenton, who have officially been announced to have lost their affiliation with the Yankees. Unlike other teams that have officially lost their affiliations, such as the Charleston RiverDogs and the Rochester Red Wings, there has been no talk of Trenton gettin another affiliation, and instead being moved to the independent Atlantic League.
Assuming no other moves, that would fit the current rumors about what is coming in the minor leagues.
However, if this report stands, the Nationals would find their Triple-A team elsewhere. The Times-Dispatch report indicates it might be with Rochester, who has officially announced they will not be a Twins affiliate in 2021, but expect another affiliation. Another possibility would be whatever team gets promoted or added to Triple-A, which could instead be the Harrisburg Nationals, who are Washington’s current Double-A team. That would still leave the Nationals Double-A opening, and they would likely still prefer the nearby Squirrels.
If the Giants do lose their Double-A affiliation with the Squirrels against their wishes, the most likely affiliations they would get would be in the Texas League, the westernmost Double-A league, with either Wichita or San Antonio as the likely spots, since after their demotion, they would not have a current affiliation that would be broken.