Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers announced that they had finalized the purchase of the high-A Carolina Mudcats, which we discovered to be in the works way back in January of this year. The Brewers have only just completed the first year of their initial Player Development Contract with the Mudcats, but will now be tied to the minor league club for the long-term.
This is the first foray into minor league ownership for Milwaukee and principal owner Mark Attanasio, but according to reports it may not be the last.
According to Kevin Reichard of Ballpark Digest, there have been talks of the franchise partnering with an existing Minor League owner on the purchase of another affiliate. Reichard does add that those discussions may take awhile, however.
The Brewers face uncertainty in the near future regarding a couple of their affiliates. The Colorado Springs Sky Sox will be moving to San Antonio after the 2018 season, at which time they’ll be able to seek a new affiliate to partner with after their PDC with Milwaukee expires. It sounds like their current ownership, The Elmore Group,is interested in linking up with one of the MLB clubs based in Texas.
The Elmore Group also owns Milwaukee’s Pioneer League affiliate, the Helena Brewers, and have announced that that team will also move following the 2018 season. The city of Helena owns Kindrick Legion Field, and their 10-year lease with the Brewers expires following the 2018 season. The franchise will play its games at Security Service Field in Colorado Springs, which will make for a lot of long bus rides to the various Pioneer League stadiums. The Brewers are annually one of the lowest-drawing teams in the league, and it’s unclear at that time if Milwaukee’s partnership with the Elmore’s will continue beyond next year.
Milwaukee has strong relationships with its other two full-season affiliates, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Biloxi Shuckers. The T-Rats are community-owned under Appleton Baseball Club, Inc. You can find more information about becoming a shareholder here on their website. The Shuckers are owned by Ken Young and Biloxi Baseball. Milwaukee’s PDCs with both affiliates run through 2020.
There are plenty of advantages to owning minor league affiliates if you’re a MLB franchise, namely stability when it comes to the affiliate shuffle that happens when PDCs expire every two or four years. As David Stearns noted when the Carolina purchase was finalized, it also gives the club an opportunity to get more involved with the enhancement of the facilities that their young prospects will be utilizing. According to The Sports Advisory Group, there are in fact plenty of minor league teams seeking new ownership.