MIAMI — At any point in the past 10 years, if the Washington Nationals wanted to call up a player from Class AAA, they knew that player could join them the same day or between the time one night’s game ended and the next began. At best, the player could hop a quick flight to D.C. At worst, or even with very little notice, he could drive the six hours like Andrew Stevenson and Adrian Sanchez did earlier this year and still be available. Everyone was available to management, all the time.

That will not be true for the next two years. Amid widespread shuffling of big league clubs and Class AAA affiliates, the Nationals ended up with the one available affiliate that made little geographic sense for anyone: the Fresno Grizzlies, which had served as the Houston Astros’ Class AAA affiliate since 2015. The Grizzlies play in the Pacific Coast League, a league notorious for its travel, which is not always busable and includes hitter-friendly settings like Las Vegas and Albuquerque. Fresno-Yosemite International Airport does not run nonstop flights to Washington.

“I think it’s real. It’s something we’re going to have to work around. We’re going to have to make adjustments, for sure,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “It’s not going to be as convenient as [Class AA] Harrisburg is, as Syracuse was, so we’ll have to make do.”

The Nationals knew they would have to leave Syracuse when the New York Mets bought the Chiefs before this season, virtually guaranteeing they would sign a player development contract there when the Chiefs’ player development contract with the Nationals expired. Several other Class AAA affiliates were playing under expiring player development contracts, so the Nationals figured to have a chance at somewhere fairly close. Nashville, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Fresno, and Round Rock (Tex.) were available.

Over the past few days, the Oakland Athletics announced they were moving from Nashville to Las Vegas, which made sense geographically. The Astros announced they were moving from Fresno to Round Rock, which was a foregone conclusion. In a somewhat surprising move, the Milwaukee Brewers announced they would stay with the Colorado Springs franchise when it moved to San Antonio, which meant the Texas Rangers would not settle there, as many expected. Then, late Tuesday afternoon, the Rangers announced a four-year deal with Nashville, which had been the most natural fit for the Nationals geographically.

“[Fresno] was our second choice. Obviously, we made it clear Nashville was our primary choice and they chose someone else,” Rizzo said. “We ended up going to a place that wanted us and we’re happy with.”

When organizing PDCs with affiliates, teams do not bid for deals with various organizations. The Nationals did not get outbid elsewhere, at least not financially. They make their pitch to an organization, and that organization makes a pitch to them. Nashville, which houses one of the most-liked stadiums in the league, decided to sign with Texas. The Nationals had to look elsewhere. But unlike the Rangers, who signed a four-year deal to stay in Nashville, the Nationals signed a two-year deal, meaning they can try to move closer to home after the 2020 season.

“We’ll be looking for better options that fit better geographically in the future,” Rizzo said. “But as of now, we’re satisfied with Fresno. They wanted us there. We’re happy to be there. It’s going to be all good.”

The Grizzlies play in the Pacific Coast League’s North Division, which includes teams in Reno, Sacramento and Tacoma. Since 2010, teams affiliated with the Grizzlies have won four World Series. They served as the Class AAA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants from 2010 to 2014, then the Astros from 2015 to 2018. The Grizzlies are the Nationals’ fourth Class AAA affiliate since moving to Washington. They had deals with New Orleans and Columbus before moving to Syracuse for the past decade.


Adam Eaton RF

Trea Turner SS

Bryce Harper CF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Ryan Zimmerman 1B

Matt Wieters C

Wilmer Difo 2B

Stephen Strasburg P


JT Riddle SS

Miguel Rojas 2B

J.T. Realmuto C

Peter O’Brien 1B

Brian Anderson 3B

Lewis Brinson CF

Austin Dean LF

Manueris Sierra RF

Sandy Alcantara P

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