Let me start this out by saying that as of now we have no information on changes for the Cincinnati Reds affiliates at the minor league level. If that’s the only reason at all you clicked on this article for, sorry. But we are learning of some new affiliations, and new level assignments in the minors and that likely means we’re on the verge of finding out a lot more – including those for the Reds.
Major League Baseball is taking over all of the operations that used to be run by Minor League Baseball. As a part of the overhaul, some teams are being eliminated (40-ish) – mostly at the non-complex rookie level. But some teams that were full-season teams are also likely going to lose their minor league license and affiliation. We don’t know which of those full-season teams will be on the list, yet.
However, on Friday we did find out from Baseball America that the New York Yankees had informed three of their former affiliates that they no longer would be Yankee affiliates. The Double-A Trenton Thunder, the Low-A Charleston Riverdogs, and the rookie-level Staten Island Yankees were all told that New York is moving on. As a part of these moves, a team is joining minor league baseball from the Atlantic League and will become a Double-A affiliate for the Yankees, and a team is also moving up from the New York-Penn League to become one of the Yankees A-ball affiliates.
This tells us a few things. First, teams are lining up affiliates for the 2021 season and beyond. Second, leagues are being reworked – we knew this already – and MLB teams are aware of what is happening, even if the minor league teams themselves aren’t (or aren’t acknowledging it).
Moving forward there are only going to be five levels of minor league baseball in the United States. The lowest level will still be the complex level rookie ball that takes place at the spring training complex for each organization (and each organization will also have a team at their Dominican Republic complex). The rookie ball teams above there no longer exist. Players will move from the complex level to Low-A before Advanced-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.
With the Reds we know that they’ll retain the AZL Reds at the complex in Goodyear, and the DSL Reds at their Dominican Academy. The Dayton Dragons are also almost assuredly going to remain as a Cincinnati affiliate. Dayton is within the Reds “territory” when it comes to professional baseball rights. As a part of the Reds franchise allowing them to operate within that territory they made it so only they could be affiliated with the franchise. Don’t expect the Reds to change that and allow another team to come in and operate/be affiliated with the Dragons.
What we don’t know, is what the other three teams will be. It’s possible that the Reds could retain all of the teams that they were last affiliated with – the Daytona Tortugas, the Chattanooga Lookouts, and the Louisville Bats. Two of those teams were initially on the “cut list” that was leaked 13 months ago – a list that has reportedly changed some since, but we haven’t had any further leaks to see what those changes were. Louisville seems safe when it comes to remaining as a licensed minor league team. They, however, do not have an agreement with a team for the 2021 season.
For both Daytona and Chattanooga, they are fighting an uphill battle to try and get back onto the “still affiliated list” as they would need to make big improvements to their facilities to meet the new standards that are being set by Major League Baseball. This isn’t to say they can’t, or aren’t willing to make those changes – but both had a long list of things that needed to be upgraded compared to other teams.
No matter how things turn out, it seems we’re on the verge of finding out a lot more information about who will be affiliated with who, and what level each team and league will be at. Rumors have long been that the Midwest League, which includes the Dayton Dragons, would be moving up from Low-A to Advanced-A. That isn’t official yet, but it is expected to happen and was recently reported on by Ballpark Digest along with other level changes.