The Lansing Lugnuts of the Low A Midwest League announced this week that they have renewed their Player Development Contract with the Blue Jays, extending it to 2020.
Earlier this month, the AA Eastern League’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats also extended their PDC with the Jays for another two years.
What is a Player Development Contract? Essentially, an agreement between the affiliate and the MLB team in which the former runs the team on a day-to-day basis, and the latter makes decisions in regard to player and coaching personnel. From milb.com’s website:
The Player Development Contract creates an affiliation between a Major League organization and the ownership of a Minor League franchise. Though many stadiums are built, owned and managed by local municipalities — often to attract or retain a Minor League team — most MiLB franchise owners are private individuals or ownership groups. Some Major League organizations may own one or more of their Minor League teams, but this is not necessarily widespread. The decision to begin the relocation process is made by the franchise owner of the Minor League Baseball club. It is often — but not necessarily — connected to signing a new PDC. Some factors affecting a team’s decision to relocate might be: attendance, stadium conditions and leases, geographical proximity to other clubs in the same league or to its Major League parent, climate conditions, economic landscape of its local market, etc.
At all levels, the Player Development Contract creates an affiliation between a Major League organization and the ownership of a Minor League franchise. The franchise ownership is responsible for assembling a front office and staff to manage all business aspects, including gameday activities such as ticket sales, promotions, broadcasting, etc. The MLB organization makes all decisions related to player development, including selecting the coaching staff and deciding which players to assign to the team.
PDCs typically expire in even years, and are usually renewed at the conclusion of that season. Earlier this off-season, the Blue Jays and the Short-Season Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League extended their PDC until 2022, demonstrating how successful the partnership has been for both sides, and the attractiveness of Vancouver as a minor league baseball market.
The High A Florida State League’s Dunedin Blue Jays are owned by Toronto, as are their entries in the Gulf Coast and Dominican Leagues. The only two teams in the system still to renew are the Rookie-Level Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League, and the AAA International League Buffalo Bisons. Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro indicated last fall that the team was quite happy with all of their minor league affiliations, and did not foresee a change in the near future. Buffalo’s proximity is important for both marketing and roster reasons.
It’s a delicate dance that both sides walk in a PDC. The affiliate must provide a good environment for their players and staff to train and play in, while the MLB partner must try to make sure that an adequate supply of decent prospects passes through the affiliate on their way to the higher levels. The Blue Jays and their partners are justifiably proud of their affilations – the Fisher Cats and the Jays go back to 2004, the Lugs 2005. Vancouver joined the Blue Jays organization in 2011, and won Northwest League titles in their first three seasons, and captured the title again last year.
In all, the Blue Jays will have eight minor league affiliates this year. Play in the full-season leagues (AAA down to Low A) begins in early April, while the rookie and short season loops begin around June 20th. Players not assigned to a full-season team remain behind at the team’s minor league complex in Dunedin, where they train and play against teams from other complexes in the area.