The Sugar Land Skeeters are going from being an independent league team to a AAA team, per reports coming out today. Sugar Land is a Houston suburb — Constellation Field, where the Skeeters play, is 22 miles from Minute Maid Park — and thus the expectation is that the Astros will have Sugar Land as their AAA affiliate.
This is part of a huge shuffle in affiliations this offseason, which is taking place as MLB looks to eliminate the short season non-complex leagues. While many cities are losing their minor league teams (or seeing them go to summer wood bat college league teams or independent league teams), other cities are seeing their teams change levels. St. Paul and Somerset also appear to be shifting from independent ball to being affiliates, along with Sugar Land.
This impacts the Rangers because the Astros moving their AAA affiliate to Sugar Land means that Round Rock is suddenly available. The Rangers lost their affiliation with Round a Rock when their development deal expired after 2018, allowing the Express, owned by the Ryan family, to get back together with the Astros, where Nolan Ryan was an advisor and Reid Ryan was team president. After 2019, however, Reid was demoted and Nolan quit, and the bad blood between the Ryans and the Astros opened the door back up for Texas to return to Round Rock.
There is nothing official yet, though this has seemed to be the obvious play since it was reported that Sugar Land was being looked at as a AAA affiliate. Nashville, the Rangers’ AAA affiliate the past two years, is considered one of the more desirable affiliates, and will be the AAA team for some other club in 2021, it appears.