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Baseball Analysis  Mike McCann / Minor Leagues

September 2002


By Mike McCann

In September of each even year it's the same thing.  Minor league teams have that brief window when they can change affiliations.  To some people, this is an interesting process.  Many others could really care less.  I fall into the former category.  I update my webpage daily whenever new information is announced.  I'm pleased that there are a few other fans out there who send me information when they find it themselves so that my webpage can be kept as current as possible.

Basically, each minor league team (please note that this does not apply to independent leagues) is required to sign a PDC (Player Development Contract) with a major league team.  These contracts can be signed in increments of two or four years.  Given that they can only be signed in increments of even years, it is every other year that the resigning process takes place.  Many teams are happy with their arrangements and will keep resigning with the same major league team for a while.  Other marriages aren't quite as happy.

During the last week of August, there is a period where teams will file for free agency.  This is where the minor league teams which have an expiring PDC make it known that they are interested in signing on with a new team.  In many cases, the team will still resign with their previous major league team, but this allows them to explore what their options are.  About a week after the minor league teams file, a list is made up and distributed to the major league teams.  It is at this time the major and minor league teams can discuss new affiliation contracts.  This will go on for about three weeks.  After which, minor league baseball will help to match up the minor league teams which have not yet found affiliations with major league teams.

For the full season leagues, each level has 30 teams so that each major league club has exactly one affiliate at each of the upper 4 levels.  This rule was created following the 2000 season and led to two teams leaving the Florida State League (Kissimmee and St. Petersburg) and two teams joining the South Atlantic League (Lexington and Wilmington, NC).  This created 30 teams at each level so that everything could be put in place.  The only problem is that the A's and Astros didn't want to follow the rules.  Oakland kept two High A teams and Houston kept two Low A teams.  But for the 2003 season, Oakland will drop Visalia of the California League, likewise for Houston and Michigan of the Midwest League.

If you are still reading at this point, I'm sure you are interested to hear some of the affiliation changes.  But I don't have all that information yet.  As I'm writing this, it's the middle of the signing period.  So I don't have all of the information.  But for the most up to date information, look at my webpage (

I can comment on some of the interesting highlights to date.

After being an Orioles affiliate since 1961, the Rochester Red Wings of the International League have signed on with the Twins.  Officials with Rochester said that they weren't happy that their team had the worst record in AAA the past two years.  Rochester is one of the nicer facilities, and the Twins were lucky to reach an agreement to play there.  The previous Twins AAA affiliate was the Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League who just won the PCL Championship.  So it looks like both parties will be happy.  Apparently, the Orioles didn't put up much of a fight either.

It has been rumored since the beginning of this past season that the Eastern League would see the Portland Sea Dogs become a Red Sox affiliate and the Trenton Thunder become a Yankees affiliate.  And now it is official.  It does make more sense to me since each location is closer to its parent city.  So maybe fans will be more likely to attend these games, not that either place was struggling in getting fans to the games.

It seems to have become a game where the minor league teams with the nicer facilities try to align with the major league teams with the best minor league systems.  As facitilies become outdated and teams get different minor league directors, the interest in remaining together isn't as strong.  One would think that fans would grow attached to seeing the players of some team's farm system, but in many cases it doesn't matter.  But I always joke that this process is always about who gets stuck with New Haven.  The New Haven Ravens were the AA Eastern League affiliate of Colorado from 1994-1998.  Then they were the Seattle affiliate in 1999 and 2000.  Then St. Louis in 2001 and 2002.  And now Toronto for 2003.

I'm going to closely follow what goes on in the offseason.  And post everything on my website so you can know too.  So far, there are five teams that will be playing in new cities next year too.  So if you think that the offseason is an uninteresting time for minor league baseball, I definitely disagree.

I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an email and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.

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