It’s the time of the year when Minor League Baseball teams start looking at their upcoming affiliations, and the Low Class A Midwest League may be fertile ground for PDC changes.
Eleven teams in the 16-team circuit have player-development contracts expiring at the end of the season. (Though the Dayton/Cincinnati PDC is technically up, the original agreement that allowed the Dragons into the Reds’ territory pretty much ensures the relationship extends indefinitely.) And while we expect some renewals to emerge from these expiring agreements — can’t imaging the Cleveland Indians and Lake County parting ways, for example — we also expect some serious movement as well, based on recent conversations with Midwest League owners and GMs. Most PDC talk is done quietly, but one team — the Cedar Rapids Kernels — are publicly saying they’re evaluating their relationship with parent Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Changes in the Angels front office is causing Kernels President Gary Keoppel and crew to think about an affiliation change:
“We’re trying to determine if it is best for us to extend with the Angels or go into the pool,” he told the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
Different MiLB teams bring different criteria for evaluating their parent relationships; Keoppel, for example, cites player involvement in community affairs as a prime consideration. Others look at the marketability of merchandise and giveaways associated with MLB parents as a key criteria, and others look at promises of MLB player rehab stints as well. And, of course, there’s the whole winning issue raised by the State College Spikes (short season A; NY-Penn League): the front office expressed great disappointment with parent Pittsburgh over the lack of winning teams sent their way.
There’s the proximity issue at play. There’s no doubt a Midwest League team can piggyback off the popularity of a local parent, as opposed to one thousands of miles away. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and West Michigan Whitecaps both profit from their relationships with parents Milwaukee and Detroit, respectively; that’s why both teams enacted extended PDCs. The close relationship between the Peoria Chiefs and the Chicago Cubs has been good for both as well, but the Cubs would have a long list of eager affiliates should they ever choose to walk away from Peoria. Two MiLB teams in the Midwest League footprint have affiliation deals up: the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals. (The White Sox front office doesn’t affiliate with the Midwest League: the team clusters player development in North Carolina, where farm hands are pretty much assured warm weather at the start of the season.)
Expiring player-development deals run through the end of the current season. After that, either side can notify the other about the intent to seek a new partner. After that, discussions can occur with potential new affiliates, but teams can still renew at any point.
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