With the Minor League Baseball season winding down and the Chicago Cubs’ schedule rapidly shrinking as well, the attention now turns to the organizational affiliates across the league as the near-annual shuffling of parent clubs begins to take place. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Cubs had player development contracts with three affiliates – Kane County, Boise and Daytona – expire.
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In Chicago’s second year with the Kane County Cougars, the Class-A club dominated both the regular season and postseason to win the 2014 Midwest League Championship. However, according to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald, the team’s future affiliation with the Cubs is still very much undecided for 2015.
"The two-year player-development agreement between the Cubs and Cougars expired Sept. 11, and sources say it’s 50-50 whether the Cubs will renew with the Cougars for 2015 and beyond."
According to Miles, one potential option could be South Bend, Ind., home of the Silver Hawks – a club that was most recently tied to the Arizona Diamondbacks, with whom South Bend’s affiliation agreement just expired. However, the affiliate has received permission to seek other Major League options – one of which could very well be the Cubs. With its close proximity to the city, many would wonder why Chicago would like to seek other options outside Kane County. This report indicated that player facilities at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark are a major concern for the organization moving forward.
"At the crux of whether the Cubs will stay in Kane County or move — to South Bend or anywhere else — are the facilities and how they affect the development of Cubs players. The Cougars, since their inception in 1991, have played their home games in Geneva at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Sources say the Cubs are happy with the location of the ballpark and its proximity to Chicago, but they would like to see upgrades to the facility."
The Cubs’ Advanced Class-A advanced affiliate down in Daytona, Fla., started off the year shaky but pulled through during the second half of the season to win the FSL North Title for the second year in a row, moving on to the FSL Championship series against the Fort Myers Miracle. However, Daytona’s 22-year relationship with Chicago seems unstable moving forward. Now it appears to be that the Cubs could be ready to move from Daytona and begin searching for another affiliate to pick up. Following in the Cubs’ footsteps in Daytona could be Cincinnati, Texas or Atlanta. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League could be the next home of Chicago’s Advanced Class-A affiliate.
"The Chicago Cubs enjoy a strong national brand similar to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. So, Carolina League teams may be lining up to make a sales pitch to Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein. Of those Carolina teams, Myrtle Beach might have an advantage. The franchise is owned by Chuck Greenberg, whose son Jeff Greenberg works for Epstein in the Chicago Cubs’ baseball operations department."
Not only will the Cubs likely be moving on from Daytona, but according to KTVB, a Boise area media outlet, Chicago will be moving its short-season affiliate out of Boise.
"“The fans tend to think the Chicago Cubs own us, which they don’t,” said Boise Hawks owner Todd Rahr. “It’s a group of investors that own this stadium, the property, the assets that are the Boise Hawks. And, it’s just a vendor contract with a Major League team.”"
The Hawks will have until Sept. 30 to reach a new agreement with a Major League team, which will officially end the Cubs’ 14-year tenure in Idaho. Much the same as the organization has shown concern regarding the player development facilities in Kane County, a similar worry was voiced repeatedly in Boise, as well. After several years of talks on the matter, no action has yet been taken – likely contributing to the Cubs’ departure.
"“We feel it’s not just the Cubs that want a better facility, it’s going to be any Major League team that comes in here that is going to want a better facility,” said Rahr in a 2012 interview with KTVB."
However, one affiliate being rewarded with a brand new player development contract is the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. Iowa finished the year with a 74-70 record in the American Northern Division, also ending the year on a five-game winning streak. The new deal between the two teams will be a two-year extension that will begin in 2016 – when the current agreement expires – and end after the 2018 season. Both clubs first struck a deal back in 1981, making this one of the longest relationships (longest belonging to Phillies/Double-A Reading – 1967) between a Major League club and a Minor League affiliate – a total of 33 years (38 in 2018) between the two. Based on the move – as well as remarks made by officials with both Iowa and Chicago – both sides are happy with the agreement moving forward.
"“We are pleased to reach a PDC extension with Iowa,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president, scouting and player development in a release sent out by Iowa. “We thank Michael Gartner, Sam Bernabe and the entire Iowa Cubs family for their commitment to providing a great experience for our Triple-A players. The players who have come through Iowa speak of their positive experiences in Des Moines and appreciate their great fans, and we are thrilled to continue this long-standing partnership.”"