The Player Development Contract shuffle officially is underway, and as was reported here on July 11, the relationship between the Oakland Athletics and Sacramento RiverCats is over.
I reported at the time that Oakland was seeking to end the relationship and already was making plans to move its Triple-A players to the new ballpark in Nashville, displacing Milwaukee. Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle (who first wrote on May 18 that Sacramento was coveting the Giants' affiliation) reported today that it was the RiverCats, not Oakland, who filed for dissolution.
Based on my conversations with sources close to the situation, had the RiverCats not filed termination papers, Oakland would have done the paperwork.
In any case, the divorce appears final, clearing the way for San Francisco to move its Triple-A players from Fresno to Sacramento. That's not only a proximity improvement for the Giants, but in shifting from Chukchansi Park to Raley Field the Giants’ prospects will be seeing slight upgrades in facilities and weather.
All of this will have no impact on baseball in Modesto (which last week extended its PDC with Colorado through 2016) but will affect Nuts' players as they move through the organization. In addition to Sacramento and Fresno becoming free agents, the list of suddenly affiliate-free Pacific Coast League cities includes Colorado Springs (Rockies,) Albuquerque (Los Angeles Dodgers,) and Oklahoma City (Houston Astros.) The Dodgers, as I reported Aug. 15, will be stocking the Oklahoma City roster in 2015.
The Rockies have been in Colorado Springs ever since 1993, the first season of major league ball in Denver. But Rockies' brass has wanted a modern ballpark for its Triple-A team, and a plan that would have built a new downtown ballpark in Colorado Springs was scuttled last fall. Colorado Springs replaced its infield and installed a humidor for baseballs prior to the 2015 season, but that might not be enough to keep the home-state team happy.
Colorado still could return to Colorado Springs, but before that happens the Rockies will take a hard look at both Fresno and Albuquerque, both with facilities far more modern than the home of the Sky Sox.
The Rockies also did not renew affiliations with Double-A Tulsa and short-season Tri-City. My conversations with Rockies' management indicated they were very happy with the situation in Tulsa, so it appears the Drillers were the side to file the paperwork. And since the Drillers are the only Texas League franchise without an affiliation in place for 2015, any move by the Rockies out of Tulsa would involve a move into either the Eastern League or Southern League.
The Rockies have Northwest League options in Boise and Eugene should they not re-sign with Tri-City, where they've been for 22 seasons.
Finally, in the California League, it's no surprise the two members with the worst ballparks - Bakersfield (Cincinnati) and High Desert (Seattle) - do not have PDCs in place for next season. Both crumbling ballparks will house teams in 2016, but it could be that at the end of the affiliation shuffle minor league baseball could be forced to assign a team to either or both ballparks, which has been the case in past renewal cycles.
Minor league franchises without affiliations and major league teams seeking partners both were given lists of potential suitors on Monday in baseball's version of match.com. They have two weeks, starting Tuesday, to come to partnership agreements. After two weeks, franchises without agreements will be assigned a two-year affiliate after meetings between MLB and MiLB.
Baseball America's Josh Leventhal was able to get his hands on what he reports as the complete list of 23 minor league franchises who enter Tuesday’s affiliation shuffle without a dance partner. Here is his list, with 2014 affiliate in parenthesis.
TRIPLE-A: Pacific Coast League - Albuquerque (Dodgers), Colorado Springs (Rockies), Fresno (Giants), Nashville (Brewers), Oklahoma City (Astros), Sacramento (Athletics).
DOUBLE-A: Eastern League - New Britain (Twins). Southern League - Chattanooga (Dodgers), Mobile (Diamondbacks). Texas League - Tulsa (Rockies).
HIGH CLASS A: California League - Bakersfield (Reds), High Desert (Mariners). Carolina League - Carolina (Indians), Lynchburg (Braves), Myrtle Beach (Rangers). Florida State League - Daytona (Cubs).
LOW CLASS A: Midwest League - Beloit (Twins), Fort Wayne (Padres), Kane County (Cubs), South Bend (Diamondbacks).
SHORT-SEASON: Northwest League - Boise (Cubs), Eugene (Padres), Tri-City (Rockies).