The Cincinnati Reds extended development licenses to four minor league baseball teams today, and those four teams are the same ones that you’re used to. While some teams saw plenty of switching of affiliates, the Reds are looking to keep the Louisville Bats, Chattanooga Lookouts, Dayton Dragons, and Daytona Tortugas in their chain. We need to be sure to note that while those teams have been offered a development license that it does not mean that they will accept it.

If you’re confused by that, and you probably should be, let’s break it down a little bit. Despite negotiations that have been going on for nearly a year-and-a-half, Major League Baseball is cutting out non-complex level rookie ball and keeping 120 teams beyond the complex level each organization has at their spring training site – but even today, with these announcements, not a single minor league franchise has actually signed a contract to say yes. The Billings Mustangs and the Greeneville Reds are gone from the Reds development chain. The Mustangs are now an independent league “MLB Partner” team, while the Greeneville franchise is becoming a college wooden bat summer “draft league”.

Major League Baseball is announcing these affiliation offers today before they’ve even allowed a team being offered said affiliation license a chance to even read the terms that are being offered to them. It is expected that teams will agree to them, but there’s some hesitation among minor league team owners – as they should be. This puts the pressure directly on the teams to accept it, or otherwise they and not MLB, will appear to now be the bad guy. MLB caught a lot of bad publicity when they announced they were cutting teams, but then said they would work with the cities/teams that would be cut to keep baseball in their town. Some of that was to create college summer leagues. Some of that was to place them into independent leagues as “MLB Partner Leagues”.

One team in particular, Fresno – which had been a Triple-A team – was offered a chance to move to Low-A in the California League (this was previously an Advanced-A League) and become the Colorado Rockies affiliate. Fresno has said no. That currently leaves the Rockies without a Low-A franchise as things continue to be discussed.

So why did MLB want to cut teams and rearrange both affiliations and leagues? Well, they claim publicly that they wanted better facility standards, less travel, and a few other benefits for the players. Those things are all true. Some of the travel was not conducive at all to getting the most out of professional athletes (and just to point out that this isn’t like the Major Leagues – some of the hotels minor leaguers stay in would definitely qualify as a roach motel). And some of the facilities (ballparks) are incredibly outdated.

But what is more likely happening here is that this is mostly about money. After years of pressure to raise the pay for minor leaguers, who would make somewhere between $3,000-10,000 a year depending on which level they were playing at, the teams caved in and have raised the pay for the 2021 season (and future seasons). But by cutting teams out in the lower levels, the overall increase in minor league pay barely moves – the overall budget is just handed out to fewer people while staying mostly the same. Those players that remain get raises, but the there simply aren’t nearly as many jobs.

Getting back to the Cincinnati Reds and their teams, everyone knows what they are getting into with these relationships since they’ve already had them. With the takeover of minor league baseball, MLB has new facility standards that must be met in the next few years. One of the reasons that both the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Daytona Tortugas were on the initial “cut list” that was leaked in November of 2019 was that their facilities weren’t “up to par”. While the new facility standards are expected to be such that nearly every minor league stadium will need to make some improvements and changes, those two organizations are likely looking at larger upgrades than many others.

All of the Reds affiliates, assuming all four teams accept the license agreement, will remain on the east coast and in the same time zone. The big change is that the Dayton Dragons will now be the Cincinnati Reds Advanced-A affiliate, while the Daytona Tortugas will now be the team’s Low-A affiliate. Here’s how the overall hierarchy will work:

  • Rookie: Dominican Summer League Reds
  • Rookie: Arizona League Reds
  • Low-A: Daytona Tortugas
  • Advanced-A: Dayton Dragons
  • Double-A: Chattanooga Lookouts
  • Triple-A: Louisville Bats

The Florida State League and the Midwest League (at least the teams that remain in those leagues – some teams in each did not get extended licenses) are swapping levels. The FSL was once an Advanced-A league, and it’s moving down a level, while the Midwest League was formerly a Low-A league and is being bumped up a classification.

If you’d like to see how all of the minor league affiliations changed and worked out, Baseball America has the entire breakdown of who is now where. You do, however, need a subscription to see everything.

21 Responses

  1. renbutler

    I see the Baseball America article linked, but you have to subscribe.

    Is there a free listing of all 120 new affiliations available anywhere?

    • renbutler

      In particular, I’m interested in the Indianapolis Indians. Are they renewing with the Pirates, or will they end up elsewhere?

      • doofus

        The Indianapolis Indians have been “invited” to be a Pirate affiliate.

      • William Kloentrup

        Reds Made Playoffs Now Dismantle The Pitching Staff. Same Old Cheap Skate Moves. How Do They Continue To Have Loyal Fans Is On Them.

    • KetteringRedsFan has a comprehensive list. Not all teams have announced but almost all have.

  2. Rut

    Gee, so raise the minimum wage and then there are less opportunities? Who’d a thunk it?

    The powers that be aren’t going to make 1 cent less than they can. That is how they got to be the powers that be in the first place, and they know to keep it the rich gotta get richer.

  3. wutinthehail

    I’m interested in the Asheville Tourists. I used to do some work for them but can’t find anything about their affiliation. The used to be low A for the Rockies but that won’t be the case with the new arrangement.

  4. Doug Gray

    I haven’t seen the license, so I have no idea.

  5. Gonzo Reds

    Well, excited that the Marlins are making Jacksonville (where I live) the AAA team (has been AA since the 60’s). Downside is that it’s possible the Reds AAA team might not be in the same conference as the Lookouts AA team (and Pensacola Wahoos) were before.

    Does anyone know if the old Marlin’s AAA team was in Chattanooga’s conference, better yet division?

  6. centerfield

    I would love to see Dayton become the Reds’ AA team in the future. I was checking out the Reds team site and was reminded that Josh Hamilton was a Red for a year. They had a video of him hitting a HR in a Reds uniform.

  7. LDS

    Affiliates and yet still no shortstop. But at least they haven’t signed any new rejects today.

    • west larry

      the reds seem to be so cheap this offseason , they’ll probably resign Glavis as their starting shortstop,

    • Doug Gray

      This is like 15 months in the making, and largely out of the Reds hands.

  8. CI3J

    While on one hand I like the streamlining of things, on the other hand, it’s a pretty cut-throat way to go about it. It’s like the old joke about the boss agreeing to double the his worker’s pay, so long as he first gets to kill half the workers. That’s more or less exactly what happened here.

    How is this going to affect the minor league players? Since the Reds had players at all their affiliates, does this mean the Reds need to move everyone from Billings and Greeneville that they want to keep to Dayton, Chatanooga, or Louisville and cut all the ones they don’t want to keep? And how will this affect the draft? Surely teams won’t be drafting as many players if they don’t have places for them to play now? Or will they just become more ruthless about cutting players to make room for the new draftees?

    • Doug Gray

      While it’s not official yet, the rumors have been that they’ll be shortening the draft. Plenty of players will be without jobs because there aren’t enough roster spots. Not sure how things will play out with regards to how many draft picks they look to sign moving forward. There were definitely guys who were drafted in the past in later rounds to very specifically fill out needs in say Greeneville or Billings that may not need to be drafted/signed now.

  9. Mark Moore

    Our local A team (Mudcats, a Bernie Brewers club) looks to still be in the fold, but I’m thinking that given the Wisconsin Timberrattlers are also a Brewers club, our guys get bumped down to low-A.

    A lot of dust to be settled …

  10. David M

    I hate seeing teams get cut but am happy to see the Midwest League move to High A ball. I love the TinCaps in Fort Wayne where I live now. It is also nice to see the future Reds when the Dragons come to town. It sure was a rough year without minor league baseball. I hope fans will be able to attend in 2021!

  11. Mark Moore

    As the dust is settling, it looks like I’ll have four total options available for MiLB.

    DD#1 lives in Rome, GA and the A-level Braves are right around the corner from her. She’s also close enough to Chattanooga that a visit to our AA-level Reds might be in order if we go see her. Beyond that, I’ve got Low-A less than 20 minutes and the AAA Durham Bulls (fantastic stadium, highly recommended) about 30 minutes away.