GOODYEAR, Ariz.—As Baseball America reported on Tuesday, the Reds have moved to add an Appalachian League club to their system. On Wednesday, the team announced they had been granted the rights to affiliate with Greeneville, which the Astros recently vacated, starting in 2018.
The transaction isn’t final, but it is in the home stretch. The Reds need to settle on an operator for the club and must also work out the terms of a lease with Tusculum (Tenn.) College for the use of their Pioneer Park, and the deal must then go to the league for approval. All of these things seem likely to proceed smoothly, and the deal could be finalized by the Winter Meetings.
Greeneville will not be a replacement for Cincinnati’s current Rookie-level affiliate in the Pioneer League, nor will it supplant its Arizona League team. The Reds are only interested in adding to their system and providing themselves with more options for places to send their youngest prospects.
“It’s something we’re really excited about and something that we’ve been working on trying to be opportunistic with and just think it will open up a lot of doors, both in the draft and developmentally, for us,” Reds farm director Jeff Graupe said on Wednesday. “I think beyond extra spots, it’s more that we’ll be able to work at a higher efficiency. We’ve looked at some of the teams that have been successful with it, and I think you’re just able to generate more playing time for what we designate as the priority guys.”
For example, if the Reds had two stud shortstops at the same developmental stage but didn’t want them to have to fight for playing time on the same team, they could send one to Rookie-level Billings in the Pioneer League, and one to Greeneville in the Appy. Both get the benefit of everyday play in Rookie leagues without having to alternate positions to accommodate one another.
It also avoids the idea of having to have prospects repeat the Rookie-level Arizona League. One summer during the unrelenting heat of the “fire league” is more than enough for one player, and having a second option for advancement will only help the Reds avoid that situation.
“The AZL’s really difficult to repeat, just because of the conditions,” Graupe said. “To be able to use the complex for our youngest players in the (United) States but to not have to rely on it for playing time for kids who spent at least a year in pro ball, I think it will just let us get a lot more done.”
The Reds don’t have a set plan yet about how they’ll determine which players will go to which team, but they want to make sure not to water down either affiliate and risk souring relationships; Billings has been a Reds affiliate since 1974. That said, each league presents a different challenge because of their respective atmospheres.
“I think we’ll take a little bit of a look at development tracks,” Graupe said. “Whether you want to challenge a pitcher in the Pioneer League or you want to challenge a hitter in the Appy League. We understand the conditions and we’ll figure out what’s best for each guy.”