Readying For The Affiliation Shuffle

Which Teams Will Be Available This Fall

It certainly does not generate the same buzz as the trade deadline or the offseason hot stove league. But if you're interested in which prospects will be coming to your hometown minor league ballpark, then the bi-annual minor league affiliation shuffle is for you.

Every other September, the bulk of minor league teams are free to pursue new big league affiliates (and vice-versa). Teams sign two- or four-year player development contracts (PDC), with the latest batch set to expire after this season. Teams are free to extend PDCs with their current affiliate at any point, but cannot begin negotiating with a new team until early September.

The status of each team's player development contract is updated here—81 teams have PDCs expiring after this season.

A few storylines to keep an eye on before September arrives:

What will happen in Round Rock? The Triple-A Express is one of 13 Pacific Coast League teams whose PDC will expire after this season. In the past, there had been little reason to think Round Rock would not re-up with the Astros—the two have been linked since the Express was born as a Double-A Texas League club in 2000, a relationship that was extended when Round Rock joined the PCL in 2005.

However, that relationship could come to an end this fall. If Express owner Nolan Ryan and his partner Chuck Greenberg successfully purchase the Texas Rangers—which has become a big if recently—then it would seem likely Ryan would link the Rangers with Round Rock. That move would, in turn, create a vacancy in Oklahoma City, whose AT&T Bricktown Ballpark is among the nicest facilities in the minors.

* What will Richmond do? Only three Double-A Eastern League teams are up for grabs, but the newly relocated Flying Squirrels may be looking to hook up with the nearby Washington Nationals. Richmond's PDC with the Giants expires after this season, as does the Nationals' deal with Harrisburg. A union between the Nats and Flying Squirrels makes sense for both sides—it would give Richmond a relationship with the "hometown" team while helping Washington expand its base of fans further south.

One issue could be if the Nationals are willing to leave Harrisburg, which now plays in a completely renovated ballpark, to move to Richmond and the aging Diamond facility. Richmond ownership did sink $1.5 million into facility renovations last offseason (including a new clubhouse) and could assure the Nats that more improvements are on the way.

Nationals president Stan Kasten recently took in a Flying Squirrels' game, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported.

California League Confusion: The California League has yet to settle a pair of uncertain situations. The Rangers' four-year deal in Bakersfield expires after this season and the team is unlikely to return after promised renovations to aging Sam Lynn Ballpark were not completed. The ballpark no longer meets Minor League Baseball facility standards but the local government is unable to fund the necessary repairs. League officials have been looking for a solution, including relocating the team, but no deals appear to be on the immediate horizon. It is likely that the last high Class A affiliate standing will end up in Bakersfield.

Meanwhile, High Desert owner Bobby Brett has yet to find a buyer for the Mavericks—he has to sell the team after purchasing fellow Cal League club Rancho Cucamonga last season. Further complicating matters, the team's lease on Mavericks Stadium with the city of Adelanto expires after this season and no deal has been reached.