The Chicago Cubs and Tennessee Smokies announced an extension to their Player Development Contract (PDC) for the maximum possible term of four years. The agreement means the Smokies will be the Cubs' Double-A affiliate through the 2018 season.
"We are thrilled to announce the continuation of this partnership between the Cubs and Smokies," said Smokies president Doug Kirchhofer. "It is exciting to continue to work with one of the most recognized brands in sports, as well as with one of the best farm systems in Minor League Baseball."
"We are pleased to reach agreement with the Tennessee Smokies on a four-year Player Development Contract extension," said Jason McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development. "Our front office has enjoyed our relationship with the Smokies and the players who have come through Tennessee have spoken very highly of the Smokies and their fans. We thank Randy Boyd, Doug Kirchhofer, Brian Cox and the entire Smokies family for their commitment to providing a great experience for our Double-A players."
"Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod have been great partners," added Smokies owner Randy Boyd. "The Cubs have strong ownership and an outstanding organization. We look forward to continuing this affiliation for many more years."
The Smokies have enjoyed some of the top talent in the Minor Leagues in the past two seasons, including top Cubs and sixth-best overall prospect Javier Baez in 2013, as well as the second-best Cubs farmhand and No. eight overall prospect in Kris Bryant this year. In total, 35 Smokies have gone on to make their Major League debuts with the Cubs and play in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, including mainstays Jeff Samardzija, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo.
"There's no question the talent that has come through Kodak recently has been some of the best in baseball and it's an amazing opportunity for fans to see the stars of tomorrow pass through here," said Smokies general manager Brian Cox. "The impact the players and coaches have made in East Tennessee has been tremendous and the future is clearly bright for both the Chicago Cubs and Tennessee Smokies."
Since beginning their affiliation with the Cubs in 2007, Tennessee has posted a 553-485 record (.533) as of June 10, with six of seven completed seasons ending with a winning record. Not only is the .533 winning percentage best among all affiliates in Smokies history, but the team has also participated in Southern League postseason play in five of seven campaigns, advancing to the Championship Series in three of those seasons.
Typically, PDC's are extended for two or four years at a time, though in some cases they are not extended at all. At the end of the 2018 season, the Smokies will have been affiliated with the Cubs for 12 seasons, which would mark the second-longest such stretch for the Smokies. Tennessee was affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays for 23 seasons between 1980 through 2002.