Mariners shuffle 2 Minor League affiliations

Arkansas replaces Jackson at Double-A; Modesto in, Bakersfield out in Class A

SEATTLE -- The Mariners will be fielding two new Minor League affiliates next year, as the club announced a two-year player development contract with the Arkansas Travelers in the Double-A Texas League and a four-year contract with the Modesto Nuts in the Class A Advanced California League on Tuesday.

The Mariners are purchasing a majority interest in the Modesto franchise, which replaces Bakersfield as their California League affiliate. Bakersfield folded its franchise at the conclusion of this season.

Arkansas will replace Jackson as Seattle's Double-A club. The Mariners' 10-year affiliation with Jackson in the Southern League ended Monday, when the Generals signed a four-year deal with the D-backs.

Arkansas had been affiliated with the Angels for the past 15 years. The club has been playing in North Little Rock, Ark., since 1901 and in the Texas League since 1966. The franchise was a Triple-A club for the Phillies from 1963-65, then was the Cardinals' Double-A affiliate from 1966-2000.

"The Mariners have a commitment to a strong Minor League system and value the best possible environment for our prospects to develop," said Mariners director of player development Andy McKay said. "We will have that environment with the Arkansas Travelers."

All seven of the Mariners' Minor League affiliates qualified for postseason play this season, combining for a 451-314 record, the best winning percentage in baseball. Two of their teams won championships, with Jackson claiming the Southern League title and the Peoria club winning the Rookie-level Arizona League title.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto previously worked with Arkansas when he was the Angels' general manager prior to taking over in Seattle this past year.

"The Travelers are excited to have this opportunity to start a new relationship with the Seattle Mariners. This also brings an opportunity to again work with Jerry Dipoto and his staff," Travelers team president Russ Meeks said. "We have a mutual understanding of our goals and objectives in the development of players at the Double-A level. We believe this is a great opportunity for our loyal Travelers fans."

The team plays in Dickey-Stephens Park, a 7,200-seat facility built in 2007.

"It is a franchise with great fans, a great staff and a great ballpark, as well as a long and storied history in professional baseball, dating back to 1901," Dipoto said. "Both organizations are committed to the community, good baseball and an entertaining ballpark experience."

Seattle previously had a six-year run in the Texas League with the San Antonio Missions from 2001-06.

The Mariners held a joint news conference in Modesto on Tuesday to announce that agreement, as well as the majority interest purchase in that franchise, which had been affiliated with the Rockies the previous 12 years, and has been in existence since 1946.

McKay said the desire to remain in the California League led to the decision to team up with the previous ownership group in Modesto, which will continue to manage the day-to-day operations of the franchise.

"We are looking forward to many, many years of success here in Modesto," McKay said.

The Mariners are the second Major League team to become majority owners of a California League club, as the Giants are majority owners of the San Jose Giants.

The Mariners have had an affiliate in the California League for all but one season since 1978. Modesto becomes the ninth team Seattle has been affiliated with, joining Stockton ('78), San Jose ('79-80), Bakersfield ('82-83 and 2015-16), Salinas ('84-87), San Bernardino/Inland Empire ('88-92 and 2001-06), Riverside (1993-95), Lancaster ('96-2000) and High Desert ('07-14).

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.