The Cincinnati Reds minor league season came to an end last night in Daytona. The Tortugas fell to the Fort Myers Miracle in game 4 of the Florida State League Championship Series, losing the series 3-1. That sealed up the final game for all of the affiliates as Daytona was the last team that was playing.

That brings to the end of the season, and kicks off “free agency” in the minor leagues. The Cincinnati Reds began Tuesday without an Advanced-A affiliate or Double-A affiliate for the 2019 season. Their player development contract was up with both the Daytona Tortugas and Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Tuesday morning saw the Reds and Tortugas extend their contract for two seasons, going through the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Other Double-A affiliates

There are three different Double-A leagues in Minor League Baseball. Pensacola is in the Southern League. But there’s also the Eastern League and the Texas League. It’s been quite a while since the Reds were in a league other than the Southern League. Prior to signing on with Pensacola the Reds were with the Carolina Mudcats for three seasons. Before that they were with Chattanooga for 21 seasons. You’ve got to go back to the 1987 season when the team was with the Vermont Reds in the Eastern League.

As things stand right now the Chattanooga Lookouts, Tennessee Smokies, and Pensacola Blue Wahoos will all be “free agents” this fall among the Southern League teams. That means the Twins, Cubs and Reds will also be shopping for a place to play next spring. No team in the Eastern League will be available. In the Texas League both Midland and San Antonio will be available, making the Padres and Athletics also “free agents”. That’s five teams that could be on the move.

What Makes Sense for the Reds?

In Pensacola the franchise has only known the Reds. It came into existence in 2012 and has been with Cincinnati ever since. The team has had some struggles, and some success when it comes to on-field performance. The first four years never resulted in a winning record – but the 2015 team did win the 2nd half division title despite finishing 12 games under .500 overall and made the playoffs. It wasn’t until 2016 that the team put together a winning record, taking both the 1st and 2nd half division titles and going 81-59. In 2017 the team would again make the playoffs – qualifying in the 1st half and finishing with a 74-66 record. They would win the Southern League Co-Championship after a hurricane wiped away what would have been a Championship Series. This season they once again made the playoffs, falling in the 1st round after finishing 69-68 on the season.

From the Reds standpoint, it’s tough to see a much better fit for a Double-A affiliate. It’s close enough to your Triple-A affiliate. The ballpark, while it does play large, isn’t a detriment. The facilities are outstanding. For the Blue Wahoos, the winning has been there lately. They’ve made the playoffs three straight years and even brought home a title. But perhaps they want to see what else could be out there.

It will be an interesting thing to follow along during the next few months. While there have been a few player development contracts extended in September over the last few years, usually things start happening around November when it comes to free agency for affiliations (except when they happen the day after the season ends like what happened this morning for Daytona). With that said, the last time that the Cincinnati Reds and Pensacola Blue Wahoos re-upped their deal it happened on September 15th. After the season the affiliates meet with the organization in Cincinnati to discuss things (I honestly do not know what). That is taking place within the next week. There’s certainly a possibility that we see that happen again. If we don’t hear an announcement in the next week or so, though, bet on the two sides to be “shopping” for other options.

33 Responses

  1. Michael Smith

    Do you think the reds have interest in going elsewhere or do you thing the owners of the affiliate might want a new team???

    • Doug Gray

      I honestly have no idea.

      Something worth noting is that the owners of the Tennessee Smokies are also the same group that runs the Greeneville Reds franchise for the Reds. That’s literally the only reason I can think of as to why the Reds would possibly want to move.

      For Pensacola – as I said in the article – the losing happened early and often, but lately they’ve been winning and finding the playoffs. So at least the on-the-field stuff seems to be working with the current relationship. That isn’t to say things always go great between the two when it comes to non-playing stuff, though I have no clue as to the insight there, either. This is literally me just talking out loud that it’s *possible* something could exist there to cause someone to want to see what else is there.

    • Wes

      Pensacola should certainly be the go to spot out of those teams. Cubs surely have the better long term franchise, but most of these contracts, from what I can tell, are short term. And the team projected to have best win percentage next year in whole organization is probably AA. So there’s no way I break contract if I’m Pensacola. Sign for another 3-4 years and reap the benefit over next couple seasons of all reds young talent.

  2. Kap

    That would be a bummer if they moved. I just bought a Blue Wahoos t shirt a month or two ago lol

    • Jami Sanderson

      Most of the time the team name stays the same, just the MLB affiliate name is different. Like in 2016 the Mobile BayBears were part of the Seattle Mariners, but in 2017 became part of the Angels.

  3. Sabdheel


    Pensacola, with a new stadium and good fan base, is one excellent franchise.

    I’ve been fearful for several years that a team richer than the Reds would steal the Wahoos from us.

  4. Cguy

    Everything about Pensacola seems to be a good fit for the Reds except the summer weather patterns. Between Daytona & Pensacola there’s a rain out/delay almost daily.

  5. Jimmy Pittman

    I love Pensacola, but the Lookouts have a different ownership team then when they were ousted. With Mobile moving from the area, it would seem that Chattanooga wouldn’t be a bad landing spot for the AA team, if Pensacola and the Reds can’t hash out a deal. After all, 21 years is a long time the two spent together earlier.

  6. redsfan19

    Went to a game in Chattanooga this summer. Was wearing a Reds hat, and TIFWIW but multiple people on separate occasions including team employees came up to me saying how they had heard the Lookouts were hoping to become a Reds affiliate this offseason. Would prefer Chattanooga to Pensacola, simply because it is a much closer drive to Cincinnati and would make an easy road trip to catch a game both in Greeneville and Chattanooga. Stadium, fanbase, and facilities don’t seem to be nearly as good as Pensacola though.

    • Randy in Chatt

      TIFWIW Chattanooga is looking at purchasing a new site, closer to the base of Lookout Mountain (an old pipe-fitter company faciliity) along I-24. They want to build a new facility soon. Sounds very much like a possibility. That could be a draw for any team. I would LOVE to have Cincy back in town but Pensacola is such a great place too.

    • MK

      I heard the same type thing a couple years ago when I was in Chattanooga. An employee told me the worst thing the franchise ever did was loose the Reds. Said a new owner was a Dodgers fan and thought the popularity of the Dodgers would sell tickets. He was wrong. He said the fans would love to have Reds back as well. Probably have far fewer rainouts. He did say the only player who came through who was a real jerk was Homer Bailey (what a surprise).
      Too bad the Reds could not have had the insight of the Indians who have many of their teams in Ohio They have AAA, AA, A- and short season A in Ohio. Tennessee and Kentucky would be similar.
      One of my old high school baseball coaching buddies told me he was in Pensacola this summer and heard talk of a need for a new affiliation.

      • Keith

        I was so excited when I moved to Chattanooga in 2008 to watch the Reds’ prospects — so of course they leave, after 20+ years of affiliation. I moved out of Chattanooga a few years back, so of course it’s time for the Reds to go back! I’ll promise the city not to move back to Chattanooga so I won’t mess it up again!

    • Jon

      The Tennessee Smokies are in Kodak, just east of Knoxville. They would be really close to Greeneville. They are less than an hour apart.

  7. Shawn

    My wife Would live in the Smokie Mtns if she could. I would love the Reds to get the team in Sevierville. I wouldn’t have any problems getting her to go there with me.

    • Michael Smith

      Same with my wife. It is beautiful down there and the facilities seem nice

  8. Brad

    I hope Reds keep Pensacola as an affiliate. If not, I hope they move to Tennessee. Kodak, TN is a bit of a drive from Knoxville but spending a weekend on Lake Norris and watching some Redlegs minor league baseball is worth the trip. Have gone down twice when Pensacola was in town. I tend to prefer affiliates within driving distance when similar options to what is out there (Dayton, Louisville).

  9. Brad Stein

    This will be solved way before November. The Pensacola and Reds relationship has been described to me as fractured beyond repair by several people. I believe both parties want a change for different reasons. I think the Wahoos want out of this more then the Reds but both realize that is may be a force reunion until 2020.

    End of minor league club’s season to Sept. 11: MLB or MiLB club gives the Commissioner or President written notice (by registered/certified mail or email only) that they would like to end the PDC. Such notices will be kept confidential until Sept. 12. If neither partner in the PDC submits this written notice, the PDC will continue for another term.

    Sept. 12 – Sept. 15: The written notices from above will be revealed to all MLB and MiLB clubs that are subject to a PDC termination at the same level (ie. AAA, AA, etc.).

    Sept. 16 – Sept. 30: Clubs that are subject to a PDC termination may start to discuss with each other about the possibility of forming a new PDC.

    Oct. 7: Last possible date for clubs to voluntarily sign a PDC before the Commissioner assigns partners. This happened to Mobile when they changed affiliations to the Diamondbacks because their front office was off for the week.

  10. Redsvol

    I’ve been to Chattanooga and the Smokies (Pigeon Forge) stadiums. Both are very nice. I think either make more sense from a fan base perspective than Pensacola. Reds want to build fan base in Tennessee. They’ve been adding radio affiliates in Tennessee the last few years in effort to get people interested in following the team. I can see them leaving Pensacola if they can secure one of the Tennessee spots. Doug makes a good point in the Boyd Enterprise owning both the Greenville and Smokies minor league clubs.

  11. AirborneJayJay

    I took in a couple Tennessee and Pensacola games in Kodak, TN a few years ago. A very nice stadium just off the interstate. It is the Smoky Mountains, so lots of outdoor stuff to do. Dollywood. The sightseeing helicopter ride was spectacular.
    Just think of the summer baseball road trip you could take. Greenville, then Kodak, then Louisville, then Dayton, and then end up in Cincinnati.

  12. The Duke

    A Kodak/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg trip would make for a nice family vacation.

  13. Billy

    Maybe it is just me, but I see weather as being a fairly significant reason to want to leave Pensacola. I don’t have statistics or anything, but it seems to me that they get a lot of rain outs relative to the other options. (I perceive the entire Florida State League the same way.) My perception is that they can go several days in a row with rain-outs down there. Those long layoffs and the resulting doubleheaders to make up for the missed games are tough on a pitching staff – even if the effect is reduced in the minors because of 7-inning doubleheaders. And we’re not talking about a bunch of rookie league guys here. It’s not uncommon for players to be called up straight from AA. When you have so much trouble developing young pitchers, and you have a pitching staff at the major league level that is – to put it kindly – bad, it seems to me that you’d want to make sure that your pitchers in the upper minors are sharp and ready to step in at a moment’s notice. I think the weather situation at Pensacola runs a greater risk of leaving the Reds slightly vulnerable from time to time than having a team in Tennessee.

    Is my perception wrong? Doesn’t Pensacola get rained out more than other teams in the Southern League?

    • Jami Sanderson

      Yes, your perception is incorrect, but understandable. Rainouts like 2017’s All-Star game, or the 2017 hurricane-invaded Southern League Playoffs get bad press, but Pensacola doesn’t get more rainouts than other places. Most of the rain delays tend to be via thunderstorms which pass through quickly. Looking at the stats, out of 70 home games, there was one home game missed in 2018. That being said, rain delays certainly don’t help attendance.

  14. jbonireland

    As with many on here, my wife and I have been to many Smokies games in Kodak over the years. We always make it a point to attend a game or two when we are in the area. It is a really nice park and the ushers and staff are great. Chattanooga also is a park we have visited to watch games. A much older park but the staff at the ball park are great. My wife and I are somewhat handicapped and can’t walk far and the people at Chattanooga always valet park are car for use for nothing. The only thing about Chattanooga’s park is if you sit on the first base side for an early evening game the sun will blind you, it sets right over the left field fence. My first choice would be Kodak and my second choice would be Chattanooga. Make the move Reds!

  15. asinghoff

    Was planning a family trip down to Destin for summer 2019 with a side trip over to Pensacola for a game. Really hope they keep the relationship going because I want to check out that stadium. I’ll probably check it out either way, but I would rather go there with some Reds prospects on the field.

  16. MK

    Off topic, but it looks like Reyes will be only Blue Wahoo September call-up? Dragons season is over so I had time to go to Reds game last night, neat to see Gabby Guerrero’s first big league start and hit.

  17. Brad

    Bad look for Reds ownership to allow relationship with Pensacola to sour. Unlike a lot of minor league sports owners, Studer seems like he ‘gets it.’ Hope Reds don’t end up in Texas League…

    • Brad

      To be fair, a few of the things mentioned in Pensacola Journal article the Reds do for their affiliates now…they are recognized on the video board at every home game, their is a shared branding when appropriate, not sure how available Reds make minor league gear but I have seen hats, etc

  18. Brad Stein

    This relationship broke down mainly with the Reds becoming too comfortable in Pensacola. A lot of the players, coaches, and Reds brass were very vocal about what was their personal space around the stadium. This sometimes happened in front of fans during season ticket holder events and the Wahoos didnt know how to handle it from a customer service stand point and were embarassed by it. I know the Reds were also not happy with the playing surface in the playoffs once the UWF football season started up. In the end, the Wahoos wanted to feel more like the family in the off season with Hot Stove events, rehabs, and caravans that mattered to the fan base. The Reds were not interested. This is a really big gamble for the Wahoos if it doesn’t work out and the team may be forced to sign with Oakland which I am suprised that they mentioned thats not an option. There is also the chance they are doing this again two years from now . All that should tell you how bad this relationship soured.

    • Brad Stein

      Let me clarify and edit:

      In the end, the Wahoos wanted to feel more like the family in the off season with Hot Stove events and caravans that mattered to the fan base. The Reds were not interested. In regards to rehabs, they have all been a PR disaster for the Wahoos for multiple reasons outside of the player playing on the field.