Every two years there’s a shakeup of MLB and MiLB affiliations, as both sides seek new partners for the next two years or more. Some MLB/MiLB relationships are set in stone — Boston/Pawtucket, Cincinnati/Dayton — while others are subject to continual negotiation, even if there’s a renewal of an existing player-development contract.
This year saw some pretty dramatic changes on the affiliation front, as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies took advantage of negotiating windows to overhaul their affiliates:
- The Los Angeles Dodgers dropped longtime Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) — a relationship that goes back to the days of the Triple-A Dukes — in favor of a partnership with the newly renamed Oklahoma City Dodgers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). In addition, the Dodgers signed a new affiliate contract with the Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League), centering the top two levels of its farm system in Oklahoma. For the OKC Dodgers, the partnership is natural: the Los Angeles Dodgers own a share of the team, with Peter Guber owns part of both ownership groups.
- The Chicago Cubs overhauled the bottom levels of its farm system, shifting its High-A team from the Daytona Cubs (High Class A; Florida State League) to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High Class A; Carolina League), its Low-A team from the Kane County Cougars (Low Class A; Midwest League) to the newly renamed South Bend Cubs (Low Class A; Midwest League) and its short-season team from the Boise Hawks (short season A; Northwest League) to the Eugene Emeralds (short season A; Northwest League). The shift from Kane County — a team playing in the Chicago suburbs — for the South Bend affiliation was startling to many in baseball. The point, as it turns out, was to extend the Cubs brand into Indiana, and the South Bend ownership obliged by adopting the Cubs name and branding.
- The Colorado Rockies signed new affiliate deals with the Albuquerque Isotopes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), New Britain Rock Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) and Boise Hawks (short season A; Northwest League) and leaving the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League) and Tri-City Dust Devils (short season A; Northwest League).
All in all, there were six affiliate shifts at Triple-A — a surprising number, as there’s usually very few affiliate shifts at that level. Perhaps the most interesting shift had the San Francisco Giants leave the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) for the Sacramento River Cats (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and the Oakland Athletics leaving the River Cats for the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). It was a shift that could benefit both teams: it gives San Francisco an even bigger media presence in the Bay Area, and the A’s will be able to develop talent at a new, shiny facility in Nashville.
As noted, we’re running down the top 10 stories of 2014 on Ballpark Digest. Previously:
#2, 1919 World Series film footage
#3, Montreal and MLB
#4, Simmons Field restorations
#5, a unique ballpark proposal
#6, New Oakland A’s ballpark
#7, Petco Park upgrades
#8, new Charlotte/El Paso ballparks
#9, ugly Christmas unis
#10, Fifth Third Ballpark fire