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.