Staten Island minor-league team suing MLB, Yankees as they shut down after losing affiliation

The Staten Island Yankees lost their affiliation with the Yankees and now are now sitting both the club and MLB. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
The Staten Island Yankees lost their affiliation with the Yankees and now are now suing both the club and MLB. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Single-A Staten Island Yankees announced Thursday that they are ceasing operations and suing Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees amid the minor-league realignment plan, in which MLB is forcing teams across the country to change or lose their major-league affiliations.

The Staten Island club, a Yankees affiliate since 1999, said it will sue “to hold those entities accountable for false promises." In their statement, the Staten Island Yankees say they still haven’t heard from the Yankees since their announcement of new minor-league affiliates on Nov. 7, despite previous promises from the Yankees that they would always be a minor-league partner.

Here is the team’s full statement announcing its closure and lawsuit:

MLB’s realignment plan for the minors

The Staten Island Yankees are one of the teams most affected by MLB’s plan to cut down the minor leagues from 160 teams to 120. Many teams are getting reassigned, losing their affiliation or are in limbo — but the Staten Island Yankees are the first to go to these lengths.

The full plan from MLB hasn’t been announced yet, but portions have trickled out, with some teams (like the Yankees) announcing new affiliates ahead of the 2021 season.

In this case, the plan calls for the New York-Penn League that the Staten Island team was a part of to be reclassified from Low-A Short Season to High-A, but the Yankees affiliate will now be the Hudson Valley Renegades, not Staten Island. The new Yankees Low-A affiliate would play out of their player development complex in Tampa.

In Staten Island, local elected officials are reportedly working on creating a different team, with MLB and the Yankees’ help, to play independent ball. But that wouldn’t be this same club. As their statement says, the current Staten Island team would face additional expenses if forced to play as an independent team, making it untenable for them to continue. This is a road that many of the 40 teams on the chopping block could also face.

Legal action has also come up in Fresno, where the Triple-A Grizzlies — most recently a Washington Nationals affiliate — were told by MLB to either accept a reclassification to Single-A or lose their affiliation altogether. The city threatened to sue MLB and now the two sides are working on a solution.

Cases like this could become more common as MLB’s plan becomes finalized and announced soon.

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