Astros owner Crane purchases Double-A team

Signs letter of intent to take over Corpus Christi Hooks

Astros owner Crane purchases Double-A team

HOUSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane has a long-term vision to someday take over ownership of the majority of the Astros' Minor League affiliates. While there are no guarantees he will attain that lofty goal, he can check one off the list: Double-A Corpus Christi.

During a news conference introducing Reid Ryan as the Astros' new president, Crane also announced the Astros have signed a letter of intent to purchase the Corpus Christi Hooks, currently owned by Ryan-Sanders Baseball. Ryan, previously the CEO of Ryan-Sanders, will continue to oversee the Hooks' operations.

"When you look at rolling in Corpus, that's a big deal for us," Crane said. "We'd like to continue to control our affiliates, and he's got the expertise to make sure we don't miss a beat there."

Round Rock, the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate, will continue to be owned by Ryan-Sanders Baseball. It will not be an option as the Astros search for a Triple-A team that they can purchase and perhaps move to an area north of The Woodlands.

By owning the Double-A affiliate, the Astros have eliminated the need to negotiate a Player Development Contract (PDC) every two or four years, and are guaranteed to be a fixture in Corpus.

Minor League franchises can opt to change parent clubs when contract agreements expire. Often, Major League teams are left scrambling to find new cities for their farm clubs to play if an affiliate chooses to partner with a different team. The Astros signed with Oklahoma City, for example, when the Ryan-Sanders group chose to end its run as the Astros' Triple-A club and partner with the Rangers.

If a parent club actually owns its Minor League teams, it's never in danger of being forced to move. That continuity can help grow and maintain a fan base that develops, over time, a loyalty to the Major League team.

"When my dad took the job with the Rangers, I heard from quite a few [Hooks fans], 'Don't switch us,'" Ryan said. "We had switched with Round Rock [to make it a Rangers affiliate], and they wanted to stay Astros.

"There was a real fear in the market that the Astros might move and go somewhere else. To me, I think making sure we're taking care of Astros fans and Hooks fans by having the Astros own the club and be there for the long term, it's better for the game of baseball."

Additionally, Crane said that the Astros are "well on our way" to getting a deal done for a new Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach County. He's hoping to sign off on it this summer and possibly move in 2015, although he acknowledged it might take an extra year to complete the venture.

The Astros' contract with Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., expires in 2016.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.