Blue Jays Join Growing Gulf Coast League

A busy offseason for the Gulf Coast League continued when the Blue Jays added a sixth affiliate and joined the Florida-based Rookie-level league.

The Blue Jays pulled out of the Appalachian League at the conclusion of the 2006 season, citing a desire to reduce their number of minor league affiliates. But talks heated up with the GCL at the Winter Meetings in Orlando and, farm director Dick Scott said, the team decided to add a Rookie-level team after a busy offseason of signings under new director of Latin American operations Marco Paddy.

The Blue Jays have seven picks in the first two rounds of this year's draft, and Scott said the team wants to have a Rookie-league affiliate in case they go with younger prospects.

"It is (a move) that we didn't plan when we withdrew from the Appalachian League," Scott said. "We thought we had a lot of guys in the lower end of organization just filling rosters . . . When we hired Marco Paddy it seemed like he was going to take the (Latin American) program to another level. We thought that going to the (short-season) New York-Penn League was going to be a big jump (for young players)."

Scott said the Blue Jays were not unhappy with the level of play in the Appalachian League but they prefer to run a Rookie-league team out of their spring training complex in Dunedin.

The Cardinals and Orioles each added GCL affiliates earlier this winter, bringing each team's total number of affiliates to seven.

Meanwhile, Appalachian League president Lee Landers continues to work with Major League Baseball to fill the void in Pulaski left by the Blue Jays and said a final deadline of Jan. 30 has been set.

Neither Appalachian League president Lee Landers nor Sylvia Lind, Major League Baseball's director of minor league operations, would comment on details of a proposal for Pulaski.

An MLB proposal to place a team of non-drafted players selected by the Major League Scouting Bureau in Pulaski was rejected by the Appalachian League because it called for the league's nine teams to fund it. Landers said the league proposed for all 30 MLB teams to back such a proposal since they would each have an equal chance to select players off the developmental team.