Looks like Double-A Connecticut took the surprise out of Double-A Carolina’s player-development contract press conference tomorrow by announcing that the Defenders will once again be a Giants affiliate. That means the Reds will be coming to Zebulon to replace the outgoing Marlins.
The Giants and Connecticut have been together six years, and despite the delay of the announcement, the clubs insist their relationship is strong. Their new two-year PDC runs through the 2010 season.
“The Giants organization and our minor league players and coaches appreciate the hard work of the Connecticut front office staff and the support of City leaders and fans in Connecticut,” Giants farm director Bobby Evans said in a release. “We have a lot of young talent ready to be tested at a (Double-A) level and look forward to the 2009 season in Norwich.”
So this settles the Double-A picture, leaving only the short-season level to iron out its final two affiliates. I’d expect Salem-Keizer (Giants) and Jamestown (Marlins) to each renew their PDCs.
Once the shuffle comes to an end, we’ll take a look at which teams stand to gain the most with their new affiliations—and which clubs may have taken the biggest hit.
In the meantime, my hometown Nationals have taken a beating in the local papers (and rightfully so, I’d say) over their paltry attendance figures at their brand-new, publicly funded ballpark. First The Washington Times reported that the Nationals’ disastrous season has not been limited to the playing field. Today, The Washington Post reports that the Nats are on the verge of posting the worst cumulative attendance of any team at a new ballpark since the Orioles opened Camden Yards in 1992.
Nationals team president Stan Kasten dismisses the hoopla as merely an answer to a trivia question. "I think given where our record is," Kasten told The Post, "I’ve been thrilled with our attendance."
Of course, the Nationals’ record is not some meteorological phenomenon out of their control but rather the result of a lackluster lineup. The Nationals certainly had plenty of rebuilding after Major League Baseball ran the franchise into the ground, but the 2008 opening of Nationals Park certainly did not come as a surprise to the club and you’d think fielding a competitive team would have been a priority. Meanwhile focusing your plans on player development and failing to sign your top draft pick is not a recipe for success, or confidence—the team could very well end up with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009.
In other news, Double-A Carolina will announce its affiliation with either the Reds or Giants at a press conference tomorrow. Double-A Trenton yesterday announced a new six-year affiliation with the Yankees. Teams cannot sign a player development contract longer than four years. However Minor League Baseball spokesman Steve Densa told me that the Thunder signed a two-year and a four-year PDC at the same time, post-dating one of them.
Only the short-season circuit will remain unsettled after tomorrow’s announcement, with the Giants and Marlins still unsigned, and Jamestown and Salem-Keizer available.
The high Class A affiliation scene is also apparently settled, as the Mariners have re-signed with High Desert (as pointed out by BizBlog reader Jared P). Like in Clinton, the Mariners signed a two-year player-development contract through the 2010 season. That leaves the White Sox left standing, who apparently will stay in Winston-Salem.
Lancaster’s deal with the Astros is in fact for two years with an automatic two-year renewal following the 2009 season. Both the Astros or Lancaster have the option to back out of the deal before the conclusion of the ’09 season. Brad Seymour, the former Lancaster general manager who now oversees operations for both the Jet Hawks and low Class A Lake County within the Peter Carfagna ownership group, said the club was looking for some stability with its affiliation after losing the Red Sox following just a two-year relationship.
"Our first priority was wanting to create a long-term affiliation," Seymour said. "Houston immediately wanted to step up and create a long-term relationship . . . We didn’t want to become an affiliate that is a revolving door."
The player-development shuffle has turned into a sprint, as few questions remain after teams have quickly lined up affiliations. Only two affiliates remain up for grabs in each of the Double-A, high Class A and short-season levels.
The latest signings:
Triple-A completed its affiliation signings over the weekend, the most notable movement including the Blue Jays heading West to Las Vegas.
Double-A Trenton and the Yankees will announce a renewal of their player-development contract at a new conference today, with Yankees GM Brian Cashman expected to be in attendance. Trenton owner Joe Finley had long said the deal was never in jeopardy, rather it was just a matter of the Yankees finding time to complete it—apparently the closing of Yankee Stadium had kept them busy.
This morning’s festivities in Buffalo will complete the player development shuffle on the Triple-A level. The Bisons will welcome the Mets to town amid much fanfare, with New York governor David Paterson, Mets owner Fred Wilpon and GM Omar Minaya expected to be on hand.
The other pieces of the Triple-A puzzle fell into place over the weekend when Syracuse and the Nationals, the Marlins and New Orleans, and the Blue Jays and Las Vegas each agreed to player-development contracts.
Las Vegas hardly seems to be welcoming the Blue Jays with open arms. Still stinging by the departure of the Dodgers, which obviously was a better geographic fit with a base of fans already in place in Las Vegas, 51s president Don Logan accepted the relationship for what it is: a last resort.
"It is what it is. We’re going to make the most of it," Logan told the Las Vegas Review Journal. "Obviously there are a lot more Dodgers fans here than Blue Jays fans . . . but we’re going to try to do some more things promotionally, and we want to grow the business."
Let’s get a few more updates in before everyone heads out for the weekend.
The Mets and Buffalo plan to make their partnership official at a press conference on Monday. This leaves three Triple-A markets still open: Syracuse in the International League and New Orleans and Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League, with the Blue Jays, Marlins and Nationals still seeking affiliates.
Teams Still Unsigned: Blue Jays, Marlins, Nationals
Buffalo Bisons – Mets (PDC through ????)
Charlotte Knights – White Sox (2010)
Columbus Clippers – Indians (2012)
Durham Bulls – Rays (2010)
Gwinnett County – Braves (owned by Atlanta)
Indianapolis Indians – Pirates (2012)
Lehigh Valley IronPigs – Phillies (2010)
Louisville Bats – Reds (2010)
Norfolk Tides – Orioles (2010)
Pawtucket Red Sox – Red Sox (2010)
Rochester Red Wings – Twins (2010)
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees – Yankees (2010)
Syracuse Chiefs – Blue Jays (2008)
Toledo Mud Hens – Tigers (2010)
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE
Albuquerque Isotopes – Dodgers (2010)
Colorado Springs Sky Sox – Rockies (2010)
Fresno Grizzlies – Giants (2010)
Iowa Cubs – Cubs (2012)
Las Vegas 51s – Dodgers/Vacant (2008)
Memphis Redbirds – Cardinals (2012)
Nashville Sounds – Brewers (2010)
New Orleans Zephyrs – Mets (2008)
Oklahoma RedHawks – Rangers (2010)
Omaha Royals – Royals (2010)
Portland Beavers – Padres (2010)
Round Rock Express – Astros (2010)
Sacramento River Cats – Athletics (2010)
Salt Lake Bees – Angels (2012)
Tacoma Rainiers – Mariners (2010)
Tucson Sidewinders – Diamondbacks (2010)
That’s B as in Buffalo.
The Bisons (my spell check says that should be Bison) have called a press conference for Monday morning to announce the signing of a player-development contract with a new affiliate. Our main man Adam Rubin has said for days the deal with the Mets is done, so there is little reason to assume that Buffalo is going to announce a partnership with anybody else.
So where does this impact the Triple-A scenario?
Three markets are still unsigned: New Orleans and Syracuse in the International League and Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League, with the Blue Jays, Marlins and Nationals still in need of a Triple-A home. Rumors have circulated that the Marlins and New Orleans have essentially agreed to a deal, which would leave the Nats and Blue Jays presumably competing for Syracuse. The loser would have to send their affiliate all the way to Vegas into one of the worst Triple-A facilities.
Before we get to player-development shuffle updates, I just saw that Major League Baseball is relocating the Civil Rights Game from Memphis to Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark in June. The news must be hard to take for the Redbirds—who lose out on hosting one of their bigger events of the year—particularly since the game was the brainchild of team president Dave Chase.
MLB’s Jimmie Lee Solomon gets a lot of the public credit for the game, particularly from Bud Selig, and he did a lot to make it a reality. But the idea and creation of the event was all Chase’s, and it seems like Memphis should have had another opportunity to make an event that had been marred by poor weather in each of the past two seasons a bigger success.
On to the shuffle . . .
For months the rumors have been swirling about who is going where:
Well, yesterday marked the official opening of the player development shuffle and several teams wasted little time to move shop.
That’s the word from Braves executive vice president of business operations Mike Plant, who said the team filed its paperwork to release the territory a few days after the R-Braves season finale at The Diamond on Sept. 1.
"We sent all the documents to the International League and Minor League Baseball," Plant said in an interview this afternoon. "That has taken place. We wanted to wait until we were comfortable (with ballpark construction in Gwinnett). That happened a couple days after our last game in Richmond."
However the deal is not done. The territory is officially the property of the International League, and it still has some business to take care of before it’s ready to let go. Namely, the IL still has to formally approve the Braves’ relocation to Gwinnett—a move that league president Randy Mobley said is expected to be completed on Tuesday when the IL board of directors meet in Oklahoma City during Bricktown Showdown festivities.
The vote should be little more than a formality, considering the Braves have terminated their lease in Richmond and begun stadium construction in Gwinnett.
Minor League Baseball spokesman Steve Densa wrote in an e-mail correspondence that the International League has given permission for outsiders to begin discussions about relocating to Richmond.
"The Braves and International League have given permission for leagues, owners or prospective owners to have discussions about relocating a club to Richmond pending approval of their relocation to Gwinnett County," Densa wrote. "Leagues, owners and prospective owners need to request and be granted permission to explore by their league and the Minor League Baseball president."
Plant said that ballpark construction in Gwinnet is ahead of schedule and that he fully expects it to be ready in time for the G-Braves home opener on April 17. One explanation for the Braves’ delay in releasing the territory had been the need for a backup plan. The Braves are on the road during Gwinnett’s first home series and the Triple-A affiliate will play at Turner Field if the new ballpark is not ready, Plant said.
One reason for the delay in finding a replacement for the Braves in Richmond has been the team and International League’s hold on the territory, which prohibits other clubs from negotiating with the city. Expect things to move along a bit more quickly after the vote on Tuesday—MILB president Pat O’Conner said he expects a decision on Richmond within the next 30-45 days.
Minor League Baseball is still pursuing a shift of two high Class A teams from the California League to the Carolina League as part of a new open mind philosophy toward broader realignment. Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner described the project that he has spearheaded as "not dead" and said that a decision for 2010 will likely come within the next three weeks.
The main stumbling block has been finding two markets within the Carolina League footprint that could support a full-season affiliated team, O’Conner said.
"There is no lack of enthusiasm or desire (for the shift), it boils down to markets and buyers and timing," O’Conner said in a recent interview. "Doing it for 2009 was admittedly ambitious, but the project is not dead. We’ll come to a point here real soon when we’ll have to decide if it is going to work . . . I don’t want to convince clubs to move west to east and put them in markets that are worse than they are coming from. [...] Continue Reading »
Let’s get the week started with a stroll around the morning papers’ headlines.
Meet The Syracuse (Or Buffalo) Mets
Nobody wanted to identify with the Mets at the end of last season’s collapse, and now we’ve got to Upstate New York towns lining up for the team’s Triple-A affiliate? Get ‘em while they’re hot.
It seems like Syracuse has the advantage here, with geography working in its favor. News of the Mets potentially relocating their Triple-A affiliate to Syracuse has the town buzzing, writes Post-Standard columnist Sean Kirst. And it would be conceivable to imagine a response similar to the Yankees’ move from Columbus to Scranton, where attendance shot up over 200,000 in 2007. In a separate article, Kirst calls for Syracuse’s local government to get involved in negotiations with the Mets, calling the team’s move there "the greatest thing that could happen to professional baseball in our town."
Speaking Of Scranton
The Times-Tribune opened a three-part series on PNC Field in Sunday’s paper with a piece focusing primarily on the fear that operator Mandalay Baseball may sooner-than-later relocate the team if a new ballpark isn’t built. The article uses previous Mandalay moves as examples: shifting Shreveport to Frisco and Rockford to Dayton soon after purchasing each affiliate.
The business side of minor league baseball is starting to make headlines. As the minor league season draws to a close—and the affiliation shuffle kicks into gear—newspapers around the country are beginning to ponder the question of who will be coming to town next year.
Before getting to some of those stories, let’s just take care of a few mostly baseball-related news.
• The Rays and low Class A Bowling Green (the Sally League affiliate formerly known as the Columbus Catfish) locked up a two-year extension through 2010.
• The Rockies and short-season Tri-City also extended their PDC by two years.
• The Indians and short-season Mahoning Valley (New York-Penn) struck a two year extension to its PDC.
• As was reported in newspapers around the world, the Indians informed Major League Baseball of its intention to look for a new affiliate, essentially ending its 14-year relationship with Buffalo and giving credence to the rumors the team will move into Columbus’ new ballpark next season.
• [FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE] Just read that Double-A San Antonio re-upped with the
Tigers Padres, leaving no available Texas League teams and dispelling any rumors of the Marlins heading to the TL (see below).
• And lastly, my daughter turned 1 yesterday (sorry, couldn’t fight the parental pride).
On to the headlines . . .
Minor League Baseball announced today that, beginning in 2010, the Bowling Green and Lake County clubs will transfer their memberships from the South Atlantic League to the Midwest League.
The Bowling Green club, formerly known as the Columbus Catfish, is relocating from Georgia to Kentucky for the 2009 season. Club officials are holding a contest to name the team. The Tampa Bay Rays recently agreed to extend their player development contract with the Bowling Green club through 2010.
The Lake County Captains are in their sixth year as a South Atlantic League club in the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Eastlake. The Captains relocated to their current home in 2003, after operating as the Columbus (Ga.) RedStixx from 1992 to 2002. An agreement was in place at the time of the move that the team would ultimately shift to the Midwest League. They had received a one-year variance from Minor League Baseball after each season as MILB continued to find a second team join the Captains in the Midwest League.
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