St. Paul Saints to Become Minnesota Twins AAA-Affiliate
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier examines that likelihood that St. Paul Saints are becoming the Minnesota Twins AAA team.
The Elephant in the Room
While not officially announced yet, it is time for American Association fans to get a dose of reality – the St. Paul Saints are joining affiliate baseball. Specially becoming the AAA team of the Minnesota Twins.
This is not a matter of conjecture any longer. There is hard evidence that this is going to be the reality for Saints fans once minor league baseball is able to get back onto the field, which may not even occur in 2021.
When You Need a Little Help
I will admit that when this subject was first discussed about six months ago that I was a serious doubter. Saints Executive Vice-President Derek Scharrer was even asked about the rumors and denied that the team was going to become an affiliate club. This led me to run a story to refute this rumor and I will say that at that time there was very little chance that the Saints were leaving independent baseball.
However, the pandemic changed everything. It was great that Major League Baseball figured out a way to get in a 60-game schedule, playoffs, and a World Series, playing before empty stadiums. It really was a boost for fans and for the league as a whole.
However, this was not the big takeaway for MLB. What teams learned is that they loved having a ready supply of players in close proximity to their club. Each Major League team kept a taxi squad of players close by in case they had a quick need to replace someone. The Twins had their taxi squad keeping ready at CHS Field, home of the Saints. If they had a need, they were just an Uber ride away from getting a starting pitcher for that night.
All the Major League teams had their taxi squads practicing nearby. The Royals, for example, used T-Bones Stadium for their reserves.
Jumping Through Some Hoops
The teams loved this situation, hence the push to get St. Paul to join affiliate ball. The Twins had been looking at Wichita and were considering waiting on Sioux Falls to see if they would build a new ballpark, but the pandemic changed the direction of the club.
However, two major issues stood in the way of the Saints moving to AAA. First off, at this level, teams are required to have a stadium that can hold at least 10,000 fans. CHS Field holds 7,200, however, St. Paul has drawn more than 10,000 on a few occasions since moving into the stadium. Even with the limitation, they were already drawing more than all but five or six minor league teams, so attendance was not going to be an issue.
An exemption was made to make the move. In addition, CHS Field was built looking ahead to expansion, and that may be the case someday, but Minor League Baseball (MiLB) was willing to allow St. Paul to bypass this requirement.
That led to one more issue – the entrance fee. The minors require a $20 million buy-in to join, and Saints ownership had no intention and felt no need to pay this. After all, they are a multi-million-dollar club playing independent baseball and they did not need to join the minors. In other words, the Twins needed them; they did not need the Twins.
Either this fee has been waived or the Twins paid it. If the fee was necessary, it would not be surprising if Minnesota saw the need to fork over the cash to get what they wanted.
Adding to the mix is that Twins ended their relationship with their long-time AAA affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. That seems to be the final confirmation that this is a done deal.
Can We Be Sure?
Yogi Berra said, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” but this is a done deal. The St. Paul Saints are not going to be in the American Association once MiLB is able to resume action. That may not happen in 2021, which could mean that the Saints will have a farewell season before making the jump.
This is going to be the first of many moves you are going to see throughout the country, many of which could have a big impact on the American Association. For example, the Dodgers’ AAA team is in Oklahoma City and Padres’ is in El Paso. Both affiliates will likely move to cities much closer to Southern California to be closer to the parent club.
Wichita was to become the AAA affiliate of the Miami Marlins this season, but one thing that has been lost in all the Saints talk is that this deal may be over as well. If the Twins thought they could make Wichita their AAA team, they must know that the Marlins want an affiliate much closer to Miami. Wichita could be a city with a brand new ballpark and no team.
Add AA-Amarillo (San Diego) and some of the other Texas area teams and there could be an incredible number of cities that could be available for independent baseball. Because of its geographical location, this could open the door for a massive expansion in the American Association, especially now that they have partnered with MLB.
And What about the Independent Team?
So, what will happen with the St. Paul Saints organization? This is one of the best run teams in all of sports, and Manager George Tsamis has built a winning culture that has led to four playoff appearances in the last six seasons.
What is going to happen is the “Saints” organization, the independent team, is going to move to a current minor league affiliate city that will lose their club when contraction is announced. My sources confirm that the Saints ownership loves owning an independent team and they are not giving this up. So, they will move this part of the operations to the new location.
Who exactly will run that club is not known at this time, but it is likely that Tsamis will take his coaching staff and go with the new club, which could find itself in neighboring Wisconsin.
In this way, a city that was to lose its affiliate team now gets a winner to take their place and the Twins get what they want in a AAA team 12 miles from Target Field. Saints fans still have the antics and fun that go along with the current club, but get to watch their future stars play on a regular night. Now, it is just a matter of when this will actually occur.
By Robert Pannier