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Monday, July 9, 2012

Player Development Agreement Update- What About the Skeeters?

Every once in a while, I run across or am asked directly the question about Sugar Land's Skeeters becoming an Astros' affiliate in the future.  My understanding is that the Atlantic League, in which the Skeeters play, is intent on expanding into a new part of the country with Sugar Land as the first team in its Western Division.  If this plan comes to fruition, the Skeeters as an Astros affiliate would not be possible.

Having said that, here is a quick synopsis of what would need to happen for the Skeeters or some other newly-created Houston area baseball franchise to become an Astros' AA or AAA affiliate(Note the Astros are contractually obligated to Corpus Christi as a AA affiliate through 2014.  They are only obligated to Oklahoma City as a AAA affiliate through 2012):

1.  The owner of the new franchise would need to find a franchise in the Pacific Coast League or the Texas League which is for sale.  I assume that for travel reasons, these two leagues are the only options. As an example of the logisitical difficulties of being in any other leagues, a Houston-area team in the Southern League would need to travel to the Jackson, Mississippi area(almost 500 miles) to meet their closest league rivals.

2.  The owner of the franchise would need to buy that franchise with the intent of moving it to Sugar Land(or another Houston-area location).  The Ryan-Sanders Group went through this process twice. First, they bought the AA franchise in Jackson, Mississippi, which was then in the Texas League. The Jackson Generals moved to Round Rock as an Astros' AA affiliate.  A few years later, the owners of the Express bought the franchise in Edmonton and moved that franhcise to Round Rock as an Astros AAA affiliate.  The AA franchise was consequently moved to Corpus Christi.

3 comments:

Bryan said...

Great article, I have been asking this question since the concept of a Sugar Land minor league team was brought up. It makes great business sense for the sugar land team and for the Astros. You create ownership in the southwest community of future Astros which translates into more fans because people watch the players come up through the system.

It sounds like the owners of the skeeters would need to find a willing seller of another minor league team? That seems like a limited window and a rare situation. Why couldn't the Astros choose the skeeters as an affiliate and ship their OKC players to sugar land in 2013? Or send them to corpus and make corpus AAA and sugar land AA?

I'm curious as to what level involvement the MLB club has with affiliates other than supplying them with players.

farmstros said...

Bryan,

Thanks for the questions. Except for the occasions where a Major League owns a minor league affiliate(the Astros own the Greeneville franchise), my understanding is that the MLB team has no part in the day to day operations of a minor league team. I assume that big league clubs have expectations of an affiliate franchise concerning the environment the affiliate provides for its players. How an affiliate meets these expectations has a strong bearing whether or not a big league club chooses to maintain its relationship with an affiliate. Agreements between big league clubs and affiliates come up for renewal every two or four years.

To the question of the Astros shipping players to Sugar Land instead of OKC in 2013: much as in the Majors, there are a restricted number of affiliates in each classification. Low A through AAA has 30 affiliates per level(one per big league team). These affiliations are owned by the entities that operate a given affiliate. For example, the Ryan Sanders Group owns a AA (The Hooks) and a AAA (The Express) franchise and the correpsonding affiliation rights.

You are exactly right that the owners of the Skeeters would have to find a willing seller of affiliation rights if they had a desire to become an affiliate of the Astros.

Bryan said...

Thanks for the follow up! So buying the rights to an affiliation basically means some team is shutting down operations because of a failed business. How would the musical chairs work if the skeeters purchased some AAA affiliation from another team and then partnered with the Astros?

This is all very confusing. Long term - it would be in the Astros best interest to have affiliates in Corpus and Sugar Land and kick OKC to the curb.