As the minor league season comes to an end, the negotiating period for new minor-league PDCs (player development contracts) has opened. The Brewers currently do not have a contract beyond 2018 at two levels: Triple-A and Rookie. They will be looking to fill both of these in the next two weeks, and the more glaring of these two openings is at the Triple-A level.
As the signing period began, five teams at the Triple-A level were left unsigned: Fresno, Las Vegas, Nashville, Round Rock, and San Antonio. This also left five MLB teams without an affiliation: Athletics, Astros, Brewers, Nationals, and Rangers. These teams now have two weeks to negotiate and sign new PDCs before the end of the period. Since teams are required to be aligned with a minor-league affiliate, if anyone doesn’t sign during this period, they will automatically be paired with a team.
The first of these dominoes fell earlier today, as the Athletics signed a two-year PDC with Las Vegas. The Las Vegas franchise is getting a new ballpark before the 2019 season, and with the Athletics looking to move their Triple-A affiliate closer to home, they jumped at the opportunity to align with Las Vegas and get to a park with a brand new facility.
While that still leaves four options open, two are nearly guaranteed to be filled at this point. The Rangers are expected to align with the former Colorado Springs franchise that is now in San Antonio, with the Astros moving in to the other Texas spot and aligning with Round Rock. Though neither of these deals are done yet, they’ve been rumored ever since Colorado Springs announced it would be moving to San Antonio, and it’s safe to assume that they will happen.
That leaves just two teams (Brewers and Nationals) to compete for two minor-league spots (Fresno and Nashville). Nashville is easily the more attractive of the two options, since they have the newer facility, as well as a location that is more central for both of these teams. While Fresno would be a step up for the Brewers, it is still an older facility, and it’s even farther away from Milwaukee than Colorado Springs. Though there were some hard feelings after Nashville ditched the Brewers back in 2014, right before their new facility was scheduled to open, a re-alignment between the two teams would be beneficial for both.
However, the Nationals might jump in and grab Nashville first. The Nationals have been in negotiations with Nashville about a PDC between the two teams. The Nationals would like to get to Nashville for the same reasons as the Brewers, to get an affiliate that is somewhat close to home, as well as into a newer facility. In terms of distance, there’s not much difference between the Brewers and Nationals, but the Nationals may have more of a presence in Tennessee (at a minimum, Washington claims it as a home market), which may make the idea of aligning with the Nationals a little more appealing.
If all of that falls into place, that would leave the Brewers as the last team standing in this edition of musical chairs, with Fresno the only available affiliate remaining. As mentioned earlier, it would still be a step up from Colorado Springs, with a better environment and a “newer” facility. However, it would move the Triple-A affiliate ever further away, which could result in more complications getting reinforcements up from the minors. Though that was never cited as a problem with Colorado Springs, it definitely would be considered as part of the search process. Should the two teams essentially be forced into a PDC, it wouldn’t be a surprise for it to be a two-year agreement, with the Brewers searching again after 2020.
Of course, the fact that the Nationals are still negotiating and haven’t signed a deal with Nashville could be a good sign. Even though we haven’t heard a report about the Brewers negotiating with anyone, it doesn’t mean that they’re not in on talks. We were surprised two years ago when the Brewers announced a deal with the Carolina Mudcats, when it seemed like a move to Lancaster was going to be near certain. The Brewers could still jump in here, so there’s no reason to get discouraged until the deals are actually signed.
Meanwhile, the Brewers also do not have a deal in the rookie-level Pioneer League at this time. Helena will be moving to Colorado Springs and rebranding there, but there’s no reason to think that the Brewers won’t move with them. With the Rockies already owning a Rookie affiliate, the one logical new partner is gone, so it’s not likely the Brewers would not re-sign with the new Colorado Springs affiliate. The only other open spots right now in that league are Grand Falls and Ogden, with the White Sox and Dodgers currently having expiring deals with those two teams.