- - Tuesday, September 18, 2018

When the Nationals call up a player from Triple-A next season that player will have a lot longer trip to make than the past 10 years.

The Nationals signed a two-year player development contract with the Fresno (California) Grizzlies in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, the team announced Tuesday.

For the previous decade, Washington’s top farm club was the Syracuse (New York) Chiefs in the International League. The Chiefs were bought prior to this season by the New York Mets, and the Chiefs will be a Mets affiliate in 2019.

Fresno was the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A affiliate from 1998 to 2014, when it aligned with the Houston Astros. Fresno has a stadium that holds 11,800 fans and the team plays in the Northern Division of the PCL along with the Sacramento River Cats, Reno Aces and Tacoma Rainers.

“The Washington Nationals are excited to be partnering with the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League,” Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “Fresno is committed to player development and we hope this partnership will continue to yield success for both clubs on the field and off.”

New Orleans was the Nationals’ top farm team from 2005 to 2006 and then Columbus was the Triple-A affiliate from 2007 to 2008 before aligning with Syracuse for 10 years.

“The Nats have been with us for 10 years and I have been with them for five of those,” Chiefs general Jason Smorol said in a statement to The Washington Times earlier this month.

“The Nats have been completely professional and we had another great year of player development as part of their farm system. We thank the Nats for their partnership, their friendship and we look forward to the next era of baseball in Syracuse.”

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