Rumor Roundup: Blue Jays, Red Wings, and Other Flying Things

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I’m writing this silly piece on the evening of November 13, about a day and a half since the last post. I must say that I thought there would be more to report on by now. The MLB office is said to have issued a memo to all teams telling them to keep a lid on it. It’s funny to note that the Yankee leak from a week ago was issued by J.J. Cooper and then later confirmed by New York. The Mets must have just assumed that it’s fine to roll some more good news into Steve Cohen’s intro press conference, because they stirred the pot again by announcing their affiliates. But since then, Cooper and MLB teams have been whistling with hands in pockets. 

Here’s the juiciest thing that I’ve got. Kevin Reichard from Ballpark Digest has been a little freewheeling with his tweets and replies, and this one is more than a little interesting: “Things are pretty much final now. One team decision left to make after a big decision involving three MiLB affiliates and three MLB teams one being the Jays — was hammered out yesterday morning.

What could this mean?

I think (think) we can assume that the Blue Jays will be keeping their affiliation with the Buffalo Bisons–I mean, c’mon–as well as the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Florida State League. I guess I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see some unexpected FSL teams lose their affiliations, but reports are that the league will be at ten teams, and the Tortuga/Fire Frog duo has had the cold-blooded target for a year. Plus, Dunedin’s complex was just remodeled. It is also possible that the rumor could be related to the High-A level, but I think it’s pretty likely that what we will see there is Toronto sticking with Lansing over Vancouver. That leaves Double-A, where the Blue Jays have a “shrug, I guess” affiliation with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. 

Now, it is possible that there could simply be a three-team swap of Double-A affiliates in this scenario, but I fail to see the motive there. Maybe the Red Sox would prefer New Hampshire, but that is more or less a wash with Portland. No, I think there’s a more tantalizing possibility at play, and one that peripherally involves a rumor that I snootily pooh-poohed yesterday morning–that of the Richmond Flying Squirrels possibly getting a bump up to Triple-A. 

Let’s set the scene. We all know the Nationals are looking for an optimal Triple-A affiliate. With Fresno’s demotion to the Cal League and St. Paul’s addition to affiliated ball, most folks have assumed that the Nats would sign on with the Rochester Red Wings. I’ve done my best to point out that the Rangers could return to Round Rock, leaving Nashville as an option for the Nats or Brewers, with the losing team getting the Red Wings. But what if there’s something else at play. 

One of the guys I’ve been communicating with these past few days–bouncing ideas, sharing links–said that he saw a tweet (with admittedly joking tone) that said: “Rochester Red Wings to be the Blue Jays’ new Double-A affiliate. You heard it here first” Could it be that the Rochester Red Wings, who have played in the International League continuously since 1912, will be switching to the Eastern League as the Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays? Let’s explore. 

It would certainly be an upgrade for Toronto. They would have both their Triple-A and Double-A teams close to the mothership, and also very close to each other. That sort of setup is a legit advantage for an MLB team; for scouting, sure, but especially for taxi-squadding and rehab assignments. With Lansing pretty close to Toronto as well, it would be a setup like the Mets and Yankees now have. Prospects start out in the GCL/FSL two-year complex, then go hang out in the region of the parent club for a few seasons. 

And who would be switching from the Eastern League to the International League? Why, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, of course. Two months ago, I listed the many benefits of Richmond switching to Triple-A as a Nationals’ affiliate, and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Richmond’s ballpark was originally built to Triple-A specifications, and hosted the R-Braves for many years. The facility is getting old, but maybe there would be ways to overhaul it or begin campaigning (again) for a new park. A win for the Nationals as well, who could come out of this with a chain of four affiliates very close to D.C., relatively speaking. 

OK, but what about the Fisher Cats? Since Reichard’s tweet mentions a three-team deal, the other MLB team in this equation would theoretically be the San Francisco Giants, who are currently with Richmond. I’d be tempted to place the Giants with an unattached Texas or Southern League team, but since the tweet didn’t refer to four teams, let’s keep it simple. 

So I can barely believe I’m writing this, but I think the most logical reading of Reichard’s tweet, garnished with other Rochester and Richmond rumors, is that the three MLB teams involved are the Blue Jays, Nationals, and Giants, and the three minor league teams involved are the Fisher Cats, Flying Squirrels, and the hallowed Rochester Red Wings. 

Now, this could be (and likely is) total BS, but it’s a fun exercise on an otherwise quiet Friday night in a pandemic autumn. I’m already imagining Rochester adding blue into their color scheme. Good night.