It's time for the every-other-year drama of revolving player development contracts, a dance unique to minor league baseball.
In case you're not familiar with PDCs, they're the contracts between major and minor league teams that bind the MLB club to maintain a full roster of players at the minor league site. These contracts are in two-year increments (two, four, or six years), and expire at the final day of the minor league regular seasons in even-numbered years.
I'll do my best below to further explain this process, but first here's how the 2014 shuffle appears to be impacting Central Valley baseball fans.
First, while the agreement between the Modesto Nuts and Colorado expires in September, it looks like a formality the two sides will re-up their PDC through 2016. Also, the agreement between the Oakland A's and Stockton Ports already runs through the 2016 season, so there's no chance for a change there.
Here's the juicy stuff. It's been rumored for years that Oakland was looking to take its Triple-A prospects out of Sacramento and that if such were the case the RiverCats’ ownership group would seek an affiliation with San Francisco. Now it appears these are more than rumors.
Four sources within the Giants and A's organizations have told me the move of the Triple-A affiliates of both San Francisco and Oakland are done deals.
Two sources told me only that the A's would not be returning to Sacramento and that the Giants are the likely new tenant at Raley Field. The other two told me that it will end up as a three-way movement, with the Giants going to Sacramento, the A's going to the new ballpark in Nashville and the Milwaukee Brewers (currently in Nashville) ending up in Fresno.
It's illegal under the rules of baseball for any of this to have been already discussed between major league teams and their minor league affiliates, so the classification of these moves as "done deals" reeks of tampering. Still, I've been hearing about these pending moves from people in position to know what's going on within the Giants and A's organizations.
A lot of things would have to fall into place for all of the above to hold true, but this would be a huge win for the RiverCats, who would be able to pin their long-term marketing plans to Northern California's most popular major league team.
This is far from the first time news about affiliation switches has leaked early. In 2004, the final season of Modesto's 30-year relationship with Oakland, reports of the A's moving to the new ballpark in Stockton began to surface early in the season. By August, the signs were so strong that the Modesto A's front office, when asked, confirmed they'd been notified by Oakland that the A's would not be back in 2005, and we were able to report the move to Stockton prior to the end of the season.
On Monday, Sept. 20, 2004, the Modesto A's won the California League championship. That Wednesday, Oakland made official its minor league move to Stockton. The following day, the Modesto front office announced its new affiliation with Colorado. That’s how quickly these things can move when both sides are motivated.
As background, here are some of the nuts and bolts of the rules surrounding PDC negotiations:
1. The major and minor league teams with expiring PDCs have between the end of the minor league regular season and Sept. 11 to notify their commissioner of their intent to terminate their PDC relationship.
2. The list of teams on either side of the expiring contracts are not made public, but between Sept. 12-15 teams without active PDCs are notified of the pool of available sites and open major league affiliations.
3. Starting Sept. 16, major and minor league teams can negotiate with each other through the end of the month. The term "negotiate" is somewhat misleading here, since neither side is allowed to directly benefit financially from any PDC. For instance, if San Francisco wanted to move its High-A team to Modesto (which is not the case) it could not offer money to the Nuts' front office to entice it to end its affiliation with Colorado.
4. If all agreements are not in place by Oct. 7, MLB and MILB get together to pair affiliates without a PDC to franchises without a contract.
5. At any time during the term of a contract, major league teams and their affiliates can agree to extend their PDCs, so expect an official announcement regarding Modesto and the Rockies in the next few weeks.
As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else regarding the Nuts, feel free to leave a comment or to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.