Wednesday was the deadline for minor league teams to sign their contract agreements in response to their affiliate invitations in the form of a Professional Development License (PDL). That acceptance is more of a formality than anything, as the alternative to signing is to simply forfeit the option of fielding a team.
Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register reported back in November that the Triple-A Iowa Cubs would be coming back to the organization, thus maintaining one of the longest-standing relationships in professional baseball. The High-A South Bend Cubs formally announced their return earlier this week and Friday brought confirmation that the Double-A Tennessee Smokies and Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans have officially signed agreements to the terms of the decade-long PDLs.
So now what?
With all 120 affiliates in a greatly reduced minor league system all locked in, the biggest changes took place in the form of divisional realignment. Baseball America’s JJ Cooper has been all over this story from the start and he posted the image below of the new structure for each level.
As you can see, Iowa will have some new opponents with a move from the heavily-traveled Pacific Coast League to the Midwest Division of the new Triple-A East. That’s very good news for Cubs fans in the Midwest, as the I-Cubs will now travel to Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Omaha, St. Paul, and Toledo. No more West Coast swings will surely be easier on the budget as well.
The Smokies will see just a few small tweaks to the Southern League that won’t alter their plans very much at all. South Bend is in the West Division of the new High-A Central configuration that includes Beloit, Peoria, and more. Myrtle Beach is part of the South Division in the new Low-A East that includes teams from the former South Atlantic and Carolina Leagues.
Having the divisional alignment complete means being able to set schedules, which finally allows team front offices to get down to business in earnest. Minor league baseball is all about putting on a show for the fans, so you can imagine how excited these organizations are to finally begin laying out promotional schedules and marketing as they ramp up to tackling the gameday experience for the first time in 18 months.
We are inching closer and closer to real-life minor league baseball happening, folks. Just a few more housekeeping items before we get to see the Cubs of tomorrow take the field in Iowa, Tennessee, South Bend, and Myrtle Beach!