There’s nothing to spark emotions around minor league baseball parks than spreading rumors about player development contracts.
They’re the agreement by which a major league club vows to keep a minor league franchise stocked with enough players to field a team for the entire season.
I have an easy way to remember when the contract between the Modesto Nuts and Colorado Rockies is up for renewal. My 1987 Volvo has to go through smog testing in even-numbered years, and yes, the two-year agreement between Nuts and Rockies expires at the end of this season.
PDCs generally have two-year durations, and all are in two-year increments. Visalia, which opens a series in Modesto tonight, is in the second year of a four-year PDC with Arizona.
Don’t panic. There is a very small chance that the Rockies will be leaving John Thurman Field and there is zero chance that the California League will be bailing on Modesto anytime soon. As long as there is secure ownership in Modesto and an active lease agreement between that ownership and the city for the use of Thurman Field, minor league baseball is legally obligated to place a team in The Place for Fun.
But all of this comes up again this year because of the biennial rumors that the Sacramento RiverCats, who have been Oakland’s Triple-A home since Raley Field opened in 2000, are interested in luring the San Francisco affiliation away from Fresno.
A few things need to be explained about the process. It is a somewhat relaxed process, but one that carries rigid rules.
When PDCs expire at the end of the season, there is a 10-day window in which minor league teams can openly talk with major league teams about signing an agreement.
Here’s the scope of the negotiations:
Minor league team: “Do you want to come here?”
Major league team: “Yes.”
Of course, that’s an understatement, except to point out that this in no way is a financial arrangement. If indeed Sacramento wants to be the home of the Triple-A Giants, the RiverCats aren’t allowed to approach San Francisco outside of the negotiation window, nor are they allowed to offer financial incentives of any kind.
Will the Central Valley Triple-A switch happen? I’m just guessing, but I think there’s a good chance the Giants will be moving their prospects to Sacramento in 2015. There’s one very strong indication that there is substance to the rumor - just this morning the Fresno Grizzlies broadcast a press release saying that they fully expect to remain a San Francisco affiliate in 2015 and beyond.
In affiliated minor league baseball, every player on every team is under contract to the parent club. Right now, every member of the Nuts is paid by the Rockies. Compared to other sports, that’s a revelation. In Stockton, only a handful of Thunder hockey players are under contract with the affiliated New York Islanders, and the rest of the roster is filled through tryout. A similar arrangement exists between the brand new Sacramento Republic FC soccer team and its two affiliates: the San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers.
But like baseball, these agreements in minor league hockey and soccer are in constant flux - with ther difference being that baseball’s affiliation changes happen every two years.
Like clockwork. Like the need for a smog certificate on a 1987 Volvo.