Sport Change interrupts the football binge to focus back on baseball for a quick moment. September 16th (tomorrow, as of this writing) is the first day of the Minor League Baseball PDC (Player Development Contract) shakeup period, which lasts through the month. There will be new affiliations forged and old affiliations ignored. Frenzy time.
Brief intro: PDCs are signed between Minor League baseball franchises and MLB parent clubs. The contracts expire on even numbered years. Teams can sign long term extensions; one example being the New York Yankees and their double-A affiliate the Trenton Thunder. The Yanks and the Thunder are joined at the hip until 2022 at the earliest. Most contracts, however, are extensions of two or maybe four years.
Since 2012 is obviously an even numbered year, unsigned contracts will expire. There is a half-month shake-up period in September, wherein MLB teams are free to negotiate with other available affiliates and possibly sign on with new clubs.
Nearly all PDCs have been extended before this date, and many will re-up with their current clubs within the shake-up period. That said, there will likely be considerable change, especially in the Midwest League and New York-Penn League. Let’s go from top-to-bottom to evaluate all clubs with expiring PDCs:
At the top level of the minors, there are only two clubs with expiring PDCs; the Buffalo Bisons (New York Mets) and the Las Vegas 51s, affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. I see this as being a dog-fight over the Bisons. The Mets would most likely prefer to remain affiliated with in-state Buffalo rather than having to book cheap flights to Las Vegas in order to scout talent. The Jays are likely fed up with their affiliation with the 51s, and Toronto and Buffalo are neighboring cities that essentially share a market. This should be fun to watch. My preditction: a switch-up! Blue Jays land on the Bisons. And pick bugs off them.
Like AAA, there are only two teams left unsigned in AA: the Akron Aeros (Cleveland Indians) and the Arkansas Travelers (Anaheim Angels). Unlike AAA, I see no reason why these two teams would switch. Cleveland is lucky to have in-state Akron as an affiliate, despite Akron’s disappointing attendance numbers. Maybe it’s a tactic to light a fire under Akron’s PR department. The Angels would have little incentive to choose Akron over Arkansas; Little Rock is a shorter flight and the Travelers are a more successful club than Akron. Verdict: no changes.
High A only has three expiring contracts: the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels) of the California League, the Fort Myers Miracle (Twins) of the Florida State League, and the Daytona Cubs–also of the FSL. My guess is that the Angels have been too busy focusing on the AL wild card race to reaffiliate with their clubs. Like the Mariners did over the last few days, there is a good chance that the Angels will simply sign all the papers on their three expiring contracts in one fell swoop. There is no obvious reason that the Cubs and Twins would switch their FSL teams, so I foresee no changes at this level.
Now things get interesting. In addition to two unsigned teams in the Sally League (Hagerstown and Lexington) there are a whopping eight unsigned teams in the Midwest League. For starters, I see Hagerstown reupping with Washington. The partnership works well both ways, and the distance traveled by Nat scouts to view talent like Bryce Harper (of a few years ago) is minimal. There have been rumors of Houston showing interest in Midwest teams rather than the Legends, so we’ll at least explore that. I don’t see why Houston would have that interest, considering that Lexington is a successful franchise that’s closer to Houston than any available teams in the MWL.
So that leaves us with the eight Midwest League teams: Beloit, Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Dayton, Fort Wayne, Kane County, Peoria, and Quad Cities. To start, I’m tossing out the Dayton Dragons. I would be shocked if the Reds don’t re-sign with one of the most successful clubs in all the Minors. In a previous post, Sport Change detailed a Midwest League reaffiliation based on information of about one month ago. A lot has changed since then, but I’m also going to stick with at least two results from that study: Fort Wayne stays with San Diego, and Burlington stays with Oakland. There just doesn’t seem to be any clear reason for those teams to switch affiliations. Plus, I like how the A’s and the Bees are together.
Scenario 1: Just Midwest Switches
Kane County Cougars to the Cubs. This is all but set in stone. Kansas City loses the Cougars, who sign on as an affiliate of nearby Chicago.
Cedar Rapids Kernels to the Twins. Minnesota makes a play for a more successful franchise located in a town that’s closer to the Twin Cities than the current Beloit.
Beloit Snappers to the Royals. The Royals snap up the Snappers to replace the departed Cougars.
Peoria Chiefs to Cardinals. Rumor has it that St. Louis will be moving on from Quad Cities. If so, I see them linking up with the former Cubs club, the Chiefs.
Quad Cities River Bandits to Angels. The Angels lose Cedar Rapids. They shrug and sign up with another Iowan club.
Scenario 2: Rumors of Houston
Cougars with Cubs.
Kernels with Twins.
Snappers with Royals.
Chiefs with Angels. Peoria used to be an Angels affiliate, so this is a reunion of sorts.
River Bandits with Astros. This one really buys into the notion that the ‘Stros are eyeing Quad Cities, so let’s indulge. It may make no practical sense for Houston, but plenty in the Minors (and Majors) makes no practical sense.
Lexington Legends with Cardinals. You can bet that there are Cardinals fans in Kentucky. The distance is reasonable, and I could see a Cards/Stros swap.
Short Season A
Moving along to another level that could see some movement over the next two weeks. Short Season A is a level that 22 MLB clubs have an affiliate in. Fourteen teams comprise the New-York Penn League, and eight comprise the Northwest League. I expect the Northwest League to remain the same. The only contract left unsigned is the former Yakima Bears with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Bears will be moving to Hillsboro, Oregon, so maybe the D’Backs are just giving them time before the sign. In the NY-Penn League, I would be shocked if Aberdeen and Baltimore decide to discontinue their fruitful coupling. I also expect Pittsburgh to re-up with the State College Spikes, as they are the only Penn team available. That leaves Jamestown and Batavia, two sleepy clubs in Western New York, and their respective affiliates: Miami and St. Louis. There is no obvious reason for changes, so I see no reason to change anything. Perhaps the only changes we’ll see in Short Season are if any of the eight MLB clubs (Dodgers, Angels, Brewers, White Sox, Twins, Royals, Braves, Reds) decide to give Short-Season a try and sign up with a club in either league. We’ll see.
Yes, we will see. Here’s a link to Minor League Baseball’s official press releases and here’s another to Minor League Source, a blog that stays on top the action. Speaking of action, more football posts soon!
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