Thursday, October 29, 2009

Goodbye Sarasota, Hello Lynchburg...

Baseball America via John Fay breaking the news that the Reds are close to moving their high-A team to Lynchburg, breaking the final ties with Sarasota.

Reds to Sell Sarasota Affiliate to Pirates

The Pirates are in the process of purchasing the Reds’ high Class A Sarasota affiliate and relocating it to their spring training complex in Bradenton for the 2010 season, a pair of sources confirmed on Wednesday. The Reds’ high A affiliate would play next year in Lynchburg, which has hosted the Pirates since 1995.

Baseball America correspondent, and Cincinnati Enquirer Reds beat writer, John Fay first reported the deal on his Reds Insider blog.

The two organizations would essentially swap player-development contracts in 2010, a provision that is in the PBA and simply requires all four teams to approve the deal. Such an approval would essentially come down to Lynchburg, since the Reds own the Sarasota affiliate. (The Red Sox and Astros pulled off a similar swap in 1999. Boston swapped its low Class A Battle Creek affiliate for the Astros’ affiliate in Augusta.)

The Reds reasoning for the sale seems to be simple. They will debut their new spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., in 2010, and thus no longer have a need for a team in the Florida State League. Whether they seek to relocate out West to the California League after their affiliation with Lynchburg expires after next season remains to be seen.

It would seem that the Reds best opportunities in the Cal League would be in Bakersfield (Rangers) and High Desert (Mariners), a pair of clubs looking to relocate to new homes since their local municipalities have declined to upgrade aging ballparks. Lake Elsinore (Padres), Lancaster (Astros) and Stockton (Athletics) are each locked into PDCs through the 2012 season. The Giants have an ownership stake in San Jose and the Angels and Rancho Cucamonga are a geographical match and have been affiliated since 2001, negating any possibility of the Reds moving there. That leaves Inland Empire (Dodgers), Modesto (Rockies) and Visalia (Diamondbacks) with PDCs expiring after the 2010 season.

Completion of the Sarasota sale is pending approval of the Florida State League, Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball. Both the National Association and the FSL have received the necessary paperwork.

Both sources are confident that the Pirates’ McKechnie Field in Bradenton will be up to Minor League Baseball standards, essentially noting that if it is good enough for spring training it will likely meet PBA facility standards. In addition, the Pirates recently installed lights at the ballpark. However, part of the approval process is to provide MILB an opportunity to inspect the ballpark, one source said.

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