I’m here this evening on a truncated timetable to chime in on the upcoming Affiliate Shuffle. And I’m not talking about the latest dance craze sweeping the internet.
(To be honest though, how much fun would a dance be called the “Affiliate Shuffle”? You could get front offices from around the different affiliated minor league franchises to participate. They could film videos. YouTube would go crazy. The best part? It only comes around every other year and last no longer than a couple of weeks. You wouldn’t have time to get sick it. You’d bob your head and stomp your feet. A little rhythmic clapping to go along with it. Yes, the “Affiliate Shuffle” would take the world by storm! Sell t-shirts. Sell lunchboxes! Sell VHS tapes teaching you the dance in the comfort and anonymity of your own home!)
You know what the least likely part of that entire digression is? That you wouldn’t have time to get sick of it. MLB is tremendous at a lot of things, and it’s ability to overplay a song is breathtaking.
But anyway, like I said earlier, I’m on a time crunch here.
That being the case, let’s lay out the facts:
- Player Development Contracts (“PDCs”) are agreed to in even-numbered totals of years. This is because when affiliates change, there is a ton of work that goes in. It would be wildly unfair to expect an affiliated organization to potentially overhaul so many parts of their organization on an annual basis.
- Affiliated organizations agree to these PDCs with Major League Baseball clubs. To put it plainly, these contracts result in the team where organizations send their minor league players to compete and develop.
- The Brewers have five organizations under such contracts during these two-year windows.
- At the conclusion of 2014, four of those PDCs (Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, rookie ball) were set to expire.
So that’s where we found ourselves with the 2014 season winding down. The only affiliate under a PDC after 2014 was set to be the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who currently are signed through 2016.
First, some good news came down the pipe as it was announced in August that the Brewers and their rookie ball affiliate in Helena were signing a four-year PDC extension. One down, three to go.
It had been widely assumed that the moving-to-Biloxi-Mississippi Huntsville Stars would stay with the Brewers. The Biloxi team even hired the outgoing Huntsville Stars’ general manager Buck Rogers, so continuity appeared to be a goal. As of the moment I hit publish, there has been no official announcement from either side that the relationship will continue. That being said, Baseball America was operating under the assumption that the PDC renewed automatically for two years. I spoke to someone who said that if the relationship is going to continue, he assumed it would be guaranteed for longer than just a two-year auto renewal. It remains to be seen how it ultimately shakes out.
In the same way as the Double-A affiliate, High-A Brevard County in Florida was shown on the same report from Baseball America to have been renewed for two years. There are some extenuating circumstances surrounding the Manatees, but it appears for now as though the PDC will be renewed there as well.
So if that accounts for three of the four expiring PDCs, we’re brought to the situation in Nashville.
The Nashville Sounds have been the Triple-A affiliate of the Brewers since 2005, which adds up to a cool decade in the Music City. The Brewers put up with an aging facility at the end of this most recent PDC extension. And when Nashville and the Sounds finally got together on a new facility at Sulphur Dell, it was hoped that the Brewers would be benefitting from enduring Greer Stadium. Instead, however, it appears that the Sounds want a new tenant beginning in 2015. That would be unfortunate timing for the Brewers what with the new facility, but then again the PDC almost wasn’t renewed following the 2012 season due to Greer Stadium and a bit of contentiousness.
The bottom line as things stands today is that the Brewers have some potential flux in their minor league system. Tuesday, September 16, 2014 is the first day that teams can officially announce new affiliations. There’s a bit of a potential carousel effect which could take place if rumors hold true.
Those rumors include the A’s leaving Sacramento and affiliating with Nashville (as already mentioned), the San Francisco Giants affiliating in Sacramento and leaving Fresno, and the Brewers possibly ending up affiliating with the Fresno Grizzlies who have been the Giants Triple-A affiliate since 1998. The franchise moved to Fresno in 1998 and was, ironically, a Brewers affiliate in their final season as the original incarnation of the Tucson Toros.
So, there’s much to be revealed beginning Tuesday. Hopefully the dust settles quickly and the Brewers will know where their top prospects will be playing ball for at least the next two years, be that in Fresno or some other option.