On Sunday, Baseball America correspondent Tom Haudricourt reported that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said the team is exploring purchasing the Carolina Mudcats, the team’s high Class A franchise in Zebulon, N.C.
The Mudcats are currently owned by Steve Bryant, who also owns the Capital Outdoor Advertising company in Zebulon. Bryant has owned the team since 1989, when it was a Double-A affiliate of the Astros in the Southern League.
The team, which plays at Five County Stadium, has changed affiliations three times since rejoining the Carolina League in 2012. The team started with the Indians, then switched the Braves after the 2014 season and will begin play as a Brewers affiliate for the first time this season.
The Brewers presently do not own any of their minor league affiliates. Triple-A Colorado Springs and Rookie-level Helena are owned by the Elmore Group, Double-A Biloxi is owned by Biloxi Baseball LLC and low Class A Wisconsin is owned by Appleton Baseball Club Inc.
Many teams do own their minor league affiliates–the Braves, for example, own all of their clubs with the exception of their new high Class A affiliate in the Florida State League–which gives them the benefit of stability that comes from not having to deal with the bi-annual affiliation shuffle and can lock them into a franchise and location that they deem beneficial.
The Mariners went that route this offseason when they purchased a controlling in the California League’s Modesto Nuts after their previous high Class A club, the Bakersfield Blaze, was contracted as part of the realignment between the California and Carolina Leagues.
As for what a potential purchase price might be when and if a sale does come to fruition, there are a number of factors involved. Peter Freund, who purchased the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds before this past season, explained some of the thought process involved from an ownership standpoint.
“I think that the first thing to do is, which is what I did, look at like transactions both in the league and within the territories so it really has to do with market size, whether it needs to move,” he said. “I think attendance is a big piece of that.”
Since 2012, the Mudcats have averaged 3,280 fans per game over the past five seasons and have been either sixth or seventh in attendance in four of those years. The outlier was in 2012, when the team returned to the Carolina League from the Southern League and replaced the Kinston Indians. The Mudcats averaged 3,249 fans per game in 2016, which placed them ahead of only Lynchburg in the eight-team Carolina League.
If the move goes through, the Mudcats would join the Carolina League’s two newest clubs–the Buies Creek Astros and the Down East Wood Ducks–among those owned by their parent club.