The Affiliation Shuffle Of 2014

As a fan of minor league baseball, one of my favorite behind-the-scenes dramas plays out every two years when the Player Development Contract (PDC) between MLB teams and minor league teams can expire.

Of course, most teams won’t change their affiliations either because the minor league team is owned by the MLB team (i.e. most of the Braves system) or because the PDC is already extended past 2014.

This is also the time of year that drives me nuts because there are all kinds of misconceptions about how this works.  If the Giants switch their AAA team from Fresno to Sacramento (as is rumored), they won’t physically move a team from one city to another, and won’t leave Fresno without a team.  It would only mean that the Sacramento River Cats will get their players and field staff from the Giants instead of the A’s, and the Fresno Grizzlies will get their players from some other organization.

2013 Heritage Minor League Gary Brown

The MLB teams only have so much control over where their farm teams are… The Blue Jays can’t just decide to put a AAA team in Montreal, for example.  There has to be an existing International League team that can and wants to move there, there has to be a suitable facility to play in, and so on.

I feel I should mention that the shuffle will not affect many of you.  There will be no changes for the farm teams of the Orioles, Nationals, Cardinals, Yankees, Marlins, Royals or Phillies, as all of those teams have their affiliates locked up beyond 2014.

Getting on to the fun, here are some of the more interesting stories that will play out starting this week…

In AAA, you have a couple of unusual factors at play…  The Oklahoma City RedHawks are being sold to a group with Dodger ties, and the Nashville Sounds are getting a new ballpark at the same time that their affiliation with the Brewers expires.

2010 Topps Pro Debut Justin Smoak

If you take the rumor mill seriously, the first round of musical chairs would have the Dodgers going to OKC, the Giants going to Sacramento and the A’s taking advantage of that new ballpark in Nashville.  Assuming that Pawtucket is going to stay with the Red Sox (even though that agreement doesn’t seem to be officially renewed just yet), you’ll have Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Fresno and possibly Tacoma on the market, while the Rockies, Brewers, Astros and possibly Mariners are looking for a AAA home.

The Dodgers may be on the move in AA as well.
2013 Heritage Minor League Joc Pederson
The AA situation is always a bit difficult for west coast teams.  Because AA baseball is made up of the Eastern, Southern and Texas Leagues, there are only a handful of AA teams west of the Mississippi, and the westernmost AA team is in Midland, TX.  I’ve heard that, since the Dodgers can’t have their AA team near LA, they want their AA team closer to their new AAA team, which might mean leaving the Chattanooga Lookouts for the Tulsa Drillers.

One way or the other, the Brewers will have their AA team in a new city in 2015, as the Huntsville Stars are moving to Biloxi, MS… so even if they extend their PDC, Brewer fans will have to get used to prospects playing in Biloxi.  On the other hand, the Huntsville/Biloxi team also has that “We’ve got a new ballpark and no PDC” situation, so there might be some scuffling over that team.
2013 Topps Pro Debut Scooter Gennett

The AA teams without a current PDC are Chattanooga, Erie, Biloxi, Midland, Mobile, Montgomery, New Britain and Tulsa, and the MLB organizations in play are the Dodgers, Tigers, Brewers, A’s, D-Backs, Rays, Twins and Rockies.

Naturally, the same type of thing is going on in Single-A and Rookie ball, but I’ll admit that I don’t know as much about the goings-on at those levels.  Mets fans will want to know that the team’s ties to the Savannah Sand Gnats and Kingsport Mets are currently uncertain.

There is some buzz that the Cubs could be leaving their High-A team in Daytona, which would be an interesting move.  The Cubs and Daytona have been paired up for 22 years, and the Daytona Cubs would obviously have to change their name if their parent club changed.

Negotiations between teams will begin this coming week, and will continue until October 7th.  If there’s anybody left standing after the game of Musical Chairs, then arranged marriages will take place.

Does anybody live near a minor league team that could be changing affiliation?  What’s the word on the street about what will happen next?


5 thoughts on “The Affiliation Shuffle Of 2014

  1. Interesting. The Orioles had their AAA in Rochester for so long I was pretty shocked when they ‘split’. I pretty much grew up knowing that the Red Wings club was where all the Orioles home grown stars came from.

  2. Great job on the updates you shared. Hopefully you will give us more posts like this one on the moves, and the teams that stay. The affiliation shuffle has been one of those things that fascinates me every year. It’s funny to think that it was maybe only eight years ago that I learned about this yearly occurrence.

    I have an interesting story on affiliations, and their moves. On vacation in 2007 we stopped to watch a game in California. Sitting directly in front of two scouts that were talking about one of the teams. The one mentioned that their MLB team was stuck with the one team as they didn’t sign another team fast enough. He went on to say that it wouldn’t happen again as they wanted out first chance that came. I guess the team drew great crowds so they weren’t about to move Problem is their ballpark was either too big or too small I forget which one. This led to all their pitchers ERA’s, and hitters batting averages being inflated. Due to all this they couldn’t get a true read on their talent. It was an interesting conversation that whenever I see a team switching affiliates every two or four years. I can’t help, but wonder what is the factor into that team being the unwanted affiliation.

    • I don’t know how true it is, but I did read that one reason for the Dodgers to want out of Albuquerque is to have their players in a ballpark that plays “truer”… Very much the kind of situation that you overheard in 2007. Sometimes it’s the ballpark, sometimes it’s the management of one partner not getting along with the other partner, sometimes it’s for less obvious reasons. The Mets aren’t thrilled about having their AAA team in Las Vegas, but one thing they like about the location is that you can always catch a non-stop flight from Vegas to any Major League city. That’s not insignificant, and when all the best dance partners are taken, you start looking at some of the intangibles.

      For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated by the business side of sports. When i was a kid I was more far more interested in the franchise movement of NBA teams than I was by basketball itself.

  3. I live in central Texas, about 45 mins from the Round Rock Express (Rangers) and about 2 hours from the San Antonio Missions (Padres). I remember when I first moved here, the Express were an Astros farm club, but being owned by Nolan Ryan, it was considered a minor conflict of interest, seeing that Ryan was the president of the Rangers. Now that he’s working with his son in Houston, I’ve wondered if/when a change might take place again.

    I’ve found it interesting the players/coaches who were with the Express during both affiliations, including coach Spike Owen (still with them) and my favorite player, Matt Kata.

    Anyways, no juicy gossip from me, as both of those teams are staying put. For now.

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