Last week, Josh Hader was named the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball. He, along with Brewers prospects Brandon Woodruff, Jorge Lopez and former prospects such as Taylor Jungmann should, as conventional wisdom suggests, be assigned to the franchise's triple-A affiliate since they do not have much left to prove at the double-A level.
The problem, we know, is the fact that the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, who are in a Player Development Contract (PDC) with the Brewers until at least 2018, are located at about six thousand feet above sea level. The thin air at that altitude leads to pitchers' breaking balls flattening out, making them more hittable, but it also turns flyballs into homeruns and pop-ups into hits.
Bottom line: Colorado Springs is, let's say, not ideal to host a baseball team.
So when can the Brewers leave the Rocky Mountains? As it stands now, the earliest possibility would be following the 2018 season. That is when the aforementioned PDC runs out and the front office can negotiate a deal with another minor league team. And that would be a good idea, since the Sky Sox' effort to relocate to San Antonio in 2019 seems to be an afterthought.
What teams could they sign with? At the end of the 2018 season, 21 of the 30 triple-A PDCs, including the Brewers' and Sky Sox' contract, will expire, so theoretically the Brewers have many options to choose from. The teams becoming 'available' include the Toledo Mud Hens, which would also be a lot closer to the Brewers' home in Milwaukee. The problem is that many of the teams, including the Mud Hens, have been with their 'parent' club for a long time and it seems that many of the teams will renew their affiliations with their current partners before their contracts expire.
This leads us to an interesting idea: Could the Brewers simply buy a minor league team or even found a new one? That way the organization could move the team to a location of their liking and, most importantly, would not have to fear the minor-league club cutting their ties with them after a few years. Would establishing or acquiring a team be an option? It has been done before. For example, the Gwinett Braves, who have been with their 'parent' organization since 1965, when the major league team was still located in Milwaukee, are owned by the Atlanta Braves. The Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers also own their triple-A affiliates and the New York Yankees hold a 50% share in theirs.
So why not draw level with the Red Sox, Braves, Dodgers and Cardinals? In addition to not having to worry about the PDC status, the Brewers, who are considered a small-market team, could benefit from a little bit of extra cash generated by their farm team. One problem could be, that minor league baseball clubs are beginning to get very expensive. According to Forbes, "Minor League Baseball's 20 most valuable teams are now [, in 2016,] worth an average $37.5 million, up almost 35% from 2013". So it looks like buying or establishing a new team could be a very pricy matter, not to mention that, in order to (re-) locate a team, the Brewers would have to successfully secure funding and permits to build a new stadium -- a task that the Sky Sox failed to accomplish. However, as the Crew continues its rebuild, David Stearns and Mark Attanasio do have a decent amount of funds available, as the Brewers' payroll shrunk from almost $100 million on opening day of 2015 to around $62 million as of the writing of this article.
Overall, my guess would be that in the end it comes down to this: Is it really worth spending about 25 to 40 million dollars to not have to potentially play triple-A ball in Colorado Springs for a few years? What do You think? And while we are at it, what location would You say would be an ideal fit for the Brewers, from an economic and geographic standpoint?
FYI: I wrote this fanpost mainly so that we can have a discussion about the possibility of the Brewers owning (some of) their minor league affiliates. Participation is much appreciated!
Also, please let me know if I made grammatical errors etc., since I am always trying to improve my writing abilities ;).