We’ve known massive changes are coming to the minor leagues for quite some time, but now we have some specific information on how it could affect the Dodgers. One report has them adding Spokane, Washington, as an Advanced Class-A affiliate in 2021, per J.P. Hoornstra of the Orange County Register:
The Dodgers’ Triple-A (Oklahoma City) and Double-A (Tulsa) affiliations will remain intact. A source with direct knowledge of the situation told SCNG that a team based in Spokane, Washington will replace Rancho Cucamonga as the team’s High-A affiliate. Rancho Cucamonga will remain affiliated with the Dodgers, and join other California League teams in moving from a High-A to Low-A classification.
A second source, not authorized to speak on the record, said the Spokane affiliation hasn’t been finalized. The club has been affiliated with the Texas Rangers since 2003.
In an email to SCNG, Spokane Indians managing partner Bobby Brett said that “we have not been informed as to any affiliation with the Spokane Indians at this time.”
J.J. Cooper of Baseball America cited a source who disputed the report of Spokane as a High-A Dodgers affiliate in 2021.
If this comes to fruition, the casualties here would be the Low-A Great Lakes Loons, which has been affiliated with the Dodgers since 2007, and the rookie-level Ogden Raptors, an affiliate since 2003.
The writing was on the wall for Ogden for some time. In the initial report from the New York Times in November 2019 about MLB’s plan to trim its minor league affiliates from about 160 teams to roughly 120 teams, all eight teams in the Pioneer League, including the Raptors, were on the cut list.
That was all preliminary, of course, and per Hoornstra, the official announcement about these Dodgers changes won’t come until close to Dec. 1, once everyone’s ducks are in a row. A big reason is the working agreement between MLB and MiLB isn’t yet complete.
I will note with all of the MiLB moves leaking out. From everything I understand from my reporting, the exact language of the professional development licenses and how the business relationship between MLB and MiLB teams will operate has not been agreed to or finalized.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) November 19, 2020
For the Loons, the report of their affiliation ending came as a surprise.
“We have had no official communication with the Dodgers’ organization that would indicate that this is true,” Great Lakes general manager Mike Hayes told Hugh Bernreuter of Saginaw News.
Minor league teams being kept in the dark has been the norm since first reports of team cuts a year ago to now.
The Yankees officially announced their full minor league affiliate structure for 2021, including Somerset, a former independent Atlantic League team, as its new Double-A team. As you might imagine, that rankled the owner of the former Double-A team in Trenton, whose owner said of the Yankees, per the New York Post, “This is a team that’s revered that treats people like crap.”
Staten Island, previously a short-season Class-A affiliate of the Yankees, was also dropped without warning. “MLB and the Yankees chose not to engage in any discussions with us,” the team released in a statement. “We were unaware of the final decision and learned about it by reading the statement on Yankees social media.”
Other MiLB affiliation changes have leaked, with Triple-A Rochester getting dropped by the Twins — perhaps in favor of the formerly independent league St. Paul Saints — then picked up by the Nationals this week. Washington’s split with their former Triple-A team Fresno appeared to at least be amicable.
The Astros are also reportedly adding a former Atlantic League team, the Sugarland Skeeters, as their Triple-A team.
Some words of advice for major league teams, now with just under two weeks before various minor league changes will be announced — be sure to have the common courtesy to let the teams you are ditching know before word gets out.