The Dodgers on Wednesday extended invitations to their minor league affiliates for 2021, which includes the keeping the same top four levels, including Triple-A Oklahoma City and Double-A Tulsa, but a shift in levels for Rancho Cucamonga and Great Lakes in Class-A.
This is the first step of a process, with Major League Baseball and MiLB still finalizing a working agreement. From J.J. Cooper at Baseball America:
The actual Professional Development Licenses (PDLs) that will govern the agreement between MLB and minor league teams have not yet been sent and will not come with the invitations. They are expected to be distributed in the next couple of weeks. The licenses and likely many appendices will spell out all the many details on travel, sponsorships, costs, facilities, length of terms and franchise valuations. That will be vital to MiLB teams making their decisions on whether they sign a PDL, attempt to negotiate to change some terms, or decline.
Since part of the Dodgers ownership group has a stake in Oklahoma City, them accepting the invitation will be a formality. Double-A Tulsa seems happy to remain as well.
“The Los Angeles Dodgers intent to continue their affiliation with the Drillers is great news for our organization, our fans and the city of Tulsa,” Drillers general manager Mike Melega said. “We are excited about the opportunity to continue this relationship as the Dodgers are a world-class organization that strives to do things right, both on the field and off.”
The Drillers also noted they would work on a written agreement with the Dodgers “that could extend the partnership between the two teams for up to 10 years.”
Should these four teams accept the Dodgers invitations, it will mean 15th straight year in Great Lakes, 11th season in Rancho Cucamonga, and seventh each in OKC and Tulsa.
“We are proud of the stability our minor league affiliates have provided over the years and we want continue our relationships with Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Great Lakes and Rancho Cucamonga,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in a statement.
That means the speculated move to Spokane, which was reported by J.P. Hoornstra of Southern California News Group on Nov. 19, did not come to fruition.
MLB reorganized the minor leagues, reducing each organization to four full-season teams at Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Low-A. That meant the end of rookie-level Ogden as a Dodgers affiliate, with the Pioneer League now an independent “partner league” with MLB instead.
The Dodgers will have their short-season teams at their facility at Camelback Ranch in Arizona as well as Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic. In 2019, the last minor league season played, the Dodgers had two teams in each spot, though it’s unclear if that will continue, or if they will only field one team in each location.
Rancho Cucamonga, the Dodgers’ High-A affiliate for the last 10 years, moves down a rung along with the entire eight-team California League, to Low-A. A look at the most recent minor league season (2019) gives a hint why, from a league-wide standpoint; the Midwest League averaged 3,612 fans per game, compared to 2,342 fans in the Cal League. The Northwest League, now a High-A league on the west coast, averaged 3,670 fans.
Rancho Cucamonga issued a statement as well:
“The Quakes are thrilled for the opportunity to continue our partnership with the Dodgers,” said Vice President - General Manager Grant Riddle. “Over the past nine seasons, Rancho Cucamonga has proudly been home to so many players on their journey to Dodger Stadium. We look forward to welcoming future Dodgers to LoanMart Field and continuing to provide championship caliber baseball to our community.”
Great Lakes also seems happy with the arrangement: