MLB’s Angels ask Salt Lake Bees to stay on for another season as their Triple-A affiliate

Despite Major League Baseball’s recent contraction of its minor-league system, the Salt Lake Bees aren’t going anywhere.

The Los Angeles Angels confirmed as much Wednesday when they extended an invitation to the Bees and three other teams to be part of the major league club’s player development pipeline. The Bees will remain the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate as they have been since 2001.

“For the past 20 years, the Angels have been our partners in fielding competitive teams with great players and coaches while enhancing our community with fun, family experiences at the ballpark,” Marc Amicone, the president and general manager of the Bees, said in a statement. “It’s an honor to be considered one of the best places to play Minor League Baseball at its highest level, with a beautiful stadium, great team operations and outstanding support from our fans.

“We are hopeful to have a finalized agreement with Major League Baseball soon so we can continue to bring professional baseball to Smith’s Ballpark and Salt Lake City in 2021.”

Once a contract is in place, and barring any further setbacks from COVID-19, baseball could start being played in Salt Lake as soon as April.

The Rocket City Trash Pandas out of Madison, Ala., will remain the Angels’ Double-A affiliate for the fifth straight season. They were renamed when the Mobile (Ala.) BayBears moved last year but have not yet played a season after the 2020 season was canceled because of COVID-19.

MLB has reorganized Class A, doing away with the Class A Advanced designation and splitting the class into High-A and Low-A. The Angels will add the Tri-City Dust Devils out of Pasco, Wash. — formerly the San Diego Padres’ Northwest League Class A Advanced affiliate — as their High-A program. The Inland Empire 66ers will fill the Low-A slot. That team out of San Bernardino, Calif., has been the Angels’ Class A Advanced affiliate since 2011.

“We are proud to continue our relationship with Salt Lake, Rocket City and Inland Empire and are excited to welcome the Tri-City franchise to the Angels family,” Perry Minasian, the Angels general manager, said in a statement. “I would like to thank the ownership groups and staffs of each of these great franchises for their help in establishing these long-term partnerships. We would also like to express our gratitude to the residents of Salt Lake City, Madison, Pasco and San Bernardino for welcoming Angels Baseball into your communities.”

The Angels will keep Rookie League teams playing nationally in the Arizona Summer League and internationally in the Dominican Summer League. It was also formerly associated with the Orem Owlz of the Pioneer League, a Rocky Mountain region Rookie League. The Pioneer League became an independent “Partner League” with MLB after the minor-league contraction, however, and its teams will not have MLB affiliates.

The Owlz announced last month that they would be relocating to Colorado for the 2021 season.