Thunder owners express anger as Yankees dump Trenton and Staten Island, restructure minor league farm system

The New York Yankees announced on Saturday that they are restructuring their minor league affiliations, and leaving Trenton and Staten Island for Bridgewater and the Hudson Valley.

According to a statement by the Yankees, changes in the team’s minor league affiliations are the result of the expiration of an agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball and the creation of a new prospect development pipeline, a collaborative effort between Major League Baseball and USA Baseball. With the restructuring, the number of affiliated minor league teams will shrink from 160 to 120.

The Yankees have decided to reduce the number of minor league team affiliates from 10 to six. They will maintain their Triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The location served as the Yankees’ “alternate site” during the 2020 season. But at the Double-A level, the Yankees are moving their affiliation from Trenton to Bridgewater, the home of the Somerset Patriots.

“We thank the great city of Trenton and the Thunder owners for 18 years of collaboration and we wish them well, but this decision was made strictly on the basis of what we believe to be the best facility to develop our young players,” reads a statement from the Yankees. “Thanks to the efforts of Major League Baseball, the Atlantic League, and the owners of the Somerset Patriots, Trenton will be offered Somerset’s membership within the Atlantic League.”

The Yankees also eliminated their Single-A affiliate in Staten Island and said officials are committed to making sure a team from the reconfigured Atlantic League will play there this coming season. The Yankees will now be aligned with Hudson Valley at the Single-A level, moving to Wappinger Falls, N.Y, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades. The Yankees’ Tampa affiliate will shift from a High Single-A designation to Low Single-A. The Yankees also will continue with short-season teams in the Gulf Coast League and Dominican Summer League, officials said.

“Restructuring our minor league affiliations — especially with the additions of Somerset and Hudson Valley — gives us greater continuity to streamline and improve the development of our minor league system,” said Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman. “The relationships we have formed with all of our teams will allow for a more consistent application of training with similarly aligned facilities in terms of structure, quality and ease of travel. We are confident that these changes will greatly benefit our players and Yankees fans for many years to come.”

Trenton Thunder owner Joseph Plumeri expressed anger about the Yankees ending their affiliation with the Thunder and said he was blindsided by the change, which he learned about through the media.

“The New York Yankees management has made the calculated and ungracious maneuver to leave the urban setting of Trenton for the affluent confines of Bridgewater Township, leaving one of the finest facilities according to Major League Baseball without an affiliate,” Plumeri said in a written statement. “For the last 18 years, Trenton has served as the Yankees’ AA affiliate with many of the contributors to the Major League team’s recent success, having first worn the Thunder’s navy and gold, and had their Louisville Sluggers picked up by Rookie, Derby, and Chase – our team’s bat dogs, on their way to the Bronx.”

Plumeri said the move by the Yankees removes a key source of income for Trenton. 

“This is about more than baseball; the Thunder is a pillar of the Trenton community,” Plumeri said. “My heart breaks for the thousands of stadium workers, fans, and residents of this great city.”

Plumeri also said he repeatedly had received assurances over the past 16 months that the Trenton Thunder would remain the Double-A affiliate of the Yankees.

“The Yankees have misled and abandoned the Thunder and the taxpayers of Mercer County, who have invested millions of dollars over the years to ensure that Arm & Hammer Park remains one of the premier ballparks in America,” Plumeri said. “While this community built the Yankees organization up and set minor league baseball attendance records, it seems the Yankees were only focused on trying to cut culturally diverse Trenton down in favor of a wealthy, higher socioeconomic area in Somerset.”

Plumeri vowed that he and his fellow owners will continue to invest in Trenton.

“We know the character of Trenton — it represents what the Yankees purport to be but are most certainly not. The Yankees’ actions are nothing short of despicable,” he said. “They may be abandoning Trenton, but we are not. We will continue to invest in Trenton and its people because Trenton deserves it – maybe more than any other place in America.”