Mets call Buffalo new Triple-A home
Astros announce contract with Lancaster
Nats sign two-year deal with Syracuse
Mariners change Class A affiliate
Even-numbered years are perhaps most commonly associated with the Olympics and national elections, but they also have great significance in the world of Minor League Baseball.
After seasons that end in an even number, many Player Development Contracts (PDCs) expire. A PDC is the affiliation agreement between a Minor League team and a Major League organization. Some of these agreements are four years in length, while others last for two.
From playing facilities to geographical proximity to fan support, Major League organizations consider many factors before signing a PDC with a Minor League club. Like the union of husband and wife in holy matrimony, the ultimate goal is to enter into a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship in which both parties are enriched by the presence of the other. But, like marriage, this is often easier said than done. Therefore, every even-numbered year brings with it the spectacle of seeing dysfunctional relationships terminated, and new ones begun.
What follows is an overview of the affiliation shuffle that has taken place since the conclusion of the 2008 campaign. Broken down by level of play, the Minor League clubs listed have recently signed PDCs with new Major League organizations. Hopefully, these will become happy and prosperous long-term relationships. If not ... well, there's always 2010.
Albuquerque Isotopes (Pacific Coast League)
Long-time partners Albuquerque and Los Angeles are back together once again. The Albuquerque Dukes were the Dodgers' Triple-A farm club from 1972-2000, during which a cavalcade of stars made their way through the Dodgers system. But the Dukes relocated to Portland after the 2000 season and the Dodgers moved their Triple-A club to Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the Isotopes had played as a Marlins affiliate since their inaugural season in 2003. The club is now hoping that the new agreement with L.A. signifies the start of the next golden era in Albuquerque baseball.
Buffalo Bisons (International League)
The Bisons spent the last 14 seasons as an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, who made the decision to relocate their Triple-A club to Columbus, Ohio. This blow was significantly softened by the arrival of the New York Mets, who were eager for an in-state partnership after two years in far-away New Orleans. This marks the second time the two teams have partnered -- as the Bisons served as the Mets' Triple-A affiliate from 1963-65.
Columbus Clippers (International League)
The Clippers' 28-year affiliation with the Yankees ended after the 2006 campaign, followed by a two-year fling with the Nationals. The club's new agreement with the Indians has the potential to be much longer-lasting, primarily due to geography. Columbus is 140 miles from Cleveland and just 110 miles away from Double-A Akron.
Gwinnett County Braves (International League, replacing Richmond Braves)
Richmond's impressive 43-year run as the Triple-A home of the Atlanta Braves came to an end upon the conclusion of the 2008 campaign, largely due to the Braves' dissatisfaction with the playing conditions at Richmond's ballpark. The franchise has relocated to Gwinnett County in suburban Atlanta where a new era will begin. Meanwhile, the city of Richmond is working hard to find a new team, and several leagues are interested in establishing a franchise there. Stay tuned.
Las Vegas 51s (Pacific Coast League)
Stephen Stills once sang "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." The 51s and the Blue Jays would do well to take this to heart, because obviously this isn't an ideal fit for either club. The 51s were a Dodgers affiliate for the past eight seasons, but that relationship ended largely due to L.A.'s dissatisfaction with Cashman Field. The Blue Jays organization spent the past 31 seasons in Syracuse, but the Chiefs were uninterested in continuing the affiliation due to the subpar teams the club has fielded in recent years.
New Orleans Zephyrs (Pacific Coast League)
Given how far away the Big Apple is from the Big Easy, it was no secret that the Mets wanted to end their affiliation with New Orleans as soon as possible. In the Marlins, the Zephyrs have found a much more suitable organization with which to align themselves. For the past six seasons, Florida's Triple-A affiliate had been based in far-away Albuquerque.
Reno Aces (Diamondbacks affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, replacing Tucson Sidewinders)
2009 will mark the first season that the Diamondbacks' Triple-A club isn't based in Tucson. The Sidewinders played their final season in '08, and now the franchise is moving to Reno. The club will be called the Aces, and is scheduled to play in a yet-to-be-completed downtown ballpark.
Syracuse Chiefs (International League)
It's a new era in Syracuse, as the Chiefs have finally terminated their three-decade relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays. The club's first choice to replace Toronto was the New York Mets, who instead opted for Buffalo. That left the Nationals, who were searching for a home after spending the past two seasons in Columbus. Syracuse and Washington, D.C. aren't exactly close to one another, but given the circumstances both parties seem to be happy with the arrangement.
Carolina Mudcats (Southern League)
Knowing a good opportunity when they see one, the Marlins organization left Carolina in order to reside closer to home (Jacksonville, specifically). Into the void stepped the Cincinnati Reds, who announced on Friday that they had signed a two-year PDC with the Mudcats. This keeps the Reds' Double-A affiliate in the Southern League, as the organization had previously been aligned with Chattanooga. Due to the high number of re-located Midwesterners living in North Carolina, the Mudcats are hoping for an increase in fan interest now that they are affiliated with Cincinnati.
Chattanooga Lookouts (Southern League)
Chattanooga's 22-season association with the Reds organization has finally come to an end and the Lookouts are set to begin a new era as a proud affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers' Double-A farm club had been based in Jacksonville for the past eight seasons, during which it won two Southern League titles.
Jacksonville Suns (Southern League)
The above two write-ups pretty much make this one superfluous. Jacksonville is a good fit for the Marlins organization, as it is the only Double-A franchise based in Florida.
Class A Advanced
Lancaster JetHawks (California League)
Salem Avalanche (Carolina League)
The JetHawks and Avalanche have swapped Major League affiliates. The Red Sox's move to Salem has been in the works for quite some time. The Boston organization did not like having one of its affiliates located all the way across the country, so it took matters into its own hands and bought the Avalanche. This left the Astros with little choice but to relocate to Lancaster, marking the first time since 1964 that Houston has had an affiliate in the California League.
Bowling Green (Tampa Bay Rays affiliate in the South Atlantic League, replacing the Columbus Catfish)
After seven years in Columbus, Ga., the Catfish are relocating to Bowling Green, Ky., where they will play under a new, yet-to-be determined name. The Rays organization will be making the trip with them. The club's brand-new facilities should more than make up for the fact that Bowling Green is further away from Tampa Bay than was Columbus.
Clinton LumberKings (Midwest League)
After sixteen years with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Seattle Mariners have shifted their Class A affiliate to Clinton. The LumberKings, who spent the past six seasons as a Rangers affiliate, are the oldest franchise in the Midwest League. Established in 1954, the club previously aligned itself with Seattle in 1969 as an affiliate of the short-lived Pilots.
Hickory Crawdads (South Atlantic League)
The Crawdads spent the past 10 seasons as a Pirates affiliate, but Pittsburgh jumped at the opportunity to relocate their Class A affiliate to nearby West Virginia. Enter the Rangers, who are transitioning their Class A club to the South Atlantic League after spending the past six past seasons in Clinton (see above).
West Virginia Power (South Atlantic League)
The Pirates are the sixth affiliate that West Virginia has had in its 21-season history, but both parties are hoping that this relationship lasts longer than the previous five. After all, West Virginia is home to many fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Power was previously affiliated with Milwaukee Brewers, who have moved on to...
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Midwest League)
The Timber Rattlers' 16-year relationship with the Seattle Mariners came to an end after this season, but few people mourn the fact. The club is now affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers, who, of course, also hail from the state of Wisconsin. The new agreement with Milwaukee marks the first time in the 50-year history of the Timber Rattlers that they have been affiliated with a National League ballclub.
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.