OAKLAND -- The A’s announced a move Thursday that had long been speculated about, agreeing to a four-year deal to transfer their Triple-A club to Nashville.
That ends a 15-year tie to the Sacramento River Cats as the A’s top minor league affiliate. It had become increasingly clear in recent months that the River Cats and A’s would sever ties, and it’s believed that Sacramento will now agree on a deal with the Giants, who are expected to transfer their Triple-A club from Fresno to the capital city.
The A’s top farm team will now play as the Nashville Sounds, a franchise that has ties to major league teams going back to 1978.
A media conference is scheduled for Tuesday at the downtown Omni Hotel in Nashville, where A’s general manager Billy Beane, director of player development Keith Lieppman, director of minor league operations Ted Polakowski and Sounds owner Frank Ward are expected to attend.
“The Oakland A’s are delighted to enter into this new association with Frank Ward and the Nashville Sounds,” Beane said in a statement. “As we did our due diligence of available Triple-A markets, it became very clear that Nashville was the most attractive. It is a dynamic city and entertainment center with first-rate ownership, a long history of baseball, and a location that is convenient for player movement.”
The A’s had a terrific situation with Sacramento because it was so close to Oakland, making for a short drive for players who were called up on short notice. But A’s assistant general manager David Forst pointed out that transferring players from Nashville will have its advantages when the A’s are back east, because the trips will be shorter and players won’t have the drastic time change to get used to.
“Obviously we’re on the road half the time,” Forst said. “It’s pretty rare that you’re looking to get someone here in an hour or two. Generally, we have 12, 12-plus hours’ notice when we want a move. They have a big international airport. The way we figured, it’s probably a wash.”
The A’s Triple-A team will be moving into a brand new ballpark in Nashville, as First Tennessee Park is scheduled to open next season. The stadium is being built on the former site of Sulphur Dell Park, where Negro League and minor league teams played from the 19th century until 1963.
The A’s familiarity with Sounds consultant Gary Arthur also helped facilitate a deal. Arthur was once the G.M. of the A’s Triple-A clubs in Sacramento and, before that, Vancouver.
According to Forst, the A’s had every intention of renewing their deal with the River Cats, but the feeling was not mutual.
“We reached out to them in spring training as well as a couple times early in the season to have discussions about extending the agreement, and they were not interested,” Forst said.
A’s manager Bob Melvin has a special tie to Nashville -- he was playing in that city when the Tigers gave him his first major league call-up in 1985. He and his wife lived just outside of Memphis for a few years.
It was pointed out to Melvin that players promoted from Nashville will have quite a trek to get to Oakland.
“We’ll tell our guys if you’re gonna get hurt, make sure you get hurt on the road,” Melvin quipped.