As expected, the Nationals formally announced a four-year extension with the Syracuse Chiefs to house their Class AAA affiliate. The agreement begins in 2015 and will run through the 2018 season. The four-year player development contract is the first-ever doled out by the Nationals beyond their standard two-year pacts, according to General Manager Mike Rizzo.
“It speaks to how much the Nationals organization values the Chiefs and the Syracuse community,” Rizzo in a team-issued statement. “In a sports-centric town like Syracuse, the Chiefs are a community pillar and we are proud to be aligned with both the town and the team.”
The Nationals have used three different Class AAA affiliates in their brief history and, in Syracuse, they have found a long-term home. Syracuse is a six-hour drive from Washington, and the International League cities are close enough that players can join the Nationals’ in Washington on short notice. A joint press conference with Nationals and Chiefs officials was held on Wednesday afternoon in Syracuse.
Many of the Nationals homegrown players are familiar with Syracuse, including Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Ross Detwiler, Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond. In 2012, 34 former Chiefs suited up for the Nationals. According to Syracuse, the current Washington 40-man roster includes 28 players who have previously played for the Chiefs.
“We have really enjoyed our dealings and discussions with the Chiefs’ new front office,” Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player development Doug Harris said in a statement. “They offer a unique energy that will resonate with players, fans and media alike.”
The Chiefs, who are not owned by the Nationals, have undergone an overhaul in management. The team went from turning a small profit in 2005 to a loss of $505,000 last season and was behind on rent payments, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. The team’s board of directors and management has changed.
“The rebuilding of this organization is founded on developing and nurturing partnerships,” Syracuse Chiefs President Bill Dutch said. “The Nationals have shown themselves to be a successful organization and a fantastic partner, and the Chiefs are thrilled to continue the relationship with them.”
Syracuse opens the 2014 season on April 3rd against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the New York Yankees AAA affiliate.