Minor league franchises changing their affiliations from one major league team to another is not unusual. However, it hasn't been a common occurrence for the Oakland A's.
Since the start of the 2005 season, the A's have maintained affiliations with the same five franchises - the Sacramento River Cats, the Midland Rockhounds, the Stockton Ports, the Kane County Cougars and the Vancouver Canadians (the A's run the AZL A's and DSL A's). Starting in 2011, the A's will no longer be affiliated with the Canadians or the Cougars.
The A's were left at the alter by the Vancouver on Friday and Kane County on Tuesday. The Canadians announced a four-year player development deal with the Toronto Blue Jays which will unite affiliated baseball's only two Canadian franchises. The Cougars will be aligning with the Kansas City Royals, with whom they signed a two-year player development contract.
What this means for the A's is that they will be searching for new affiliates at the short-season A and Low-A levels. At the short-season A level, the A's have been linked in speculation with the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League, based in Burlington, VT.
According to the Burlington Free-Press, the A's will sign on with the Lake Monsters, who had been affiliated with the Washington Nationals / Montreal Expos for the past 17 seasons. The Nationals announced on Tuesday that they were moving their short-season affiliation to Auburn. The Nationals had reportedly been unhappy with the playing conditions at Centennial Field. An engineering study has begun to see if improvements can be made to the field, according to the Free-Press.
The A's might find themselves in two Burlingtons next season. The Royals left the Burlington (IA) Bees behind when signing with the Cougars, so the A's may find themselves signing on with the Royals' old club.
Oakland last made an affiliation change before the 2005 season when they switched their High-A affiliation from the Modesto A's to the Stockton Ports. The A's had been with the Cougars since 2003. Oakland became affiliated with Kane County when major league baseball changed the rules that used to allow teams to have two affiliates in the same league. The A's used to have two California League affiliates, Modesto and Visalia.
The A's affiliation with the Vancouver Canadians ran 11 years. It began when the franchise was at the Triple-A level. That version of the Canadians was moved from Vancouver to Sacramento and became the River Cats. A new Canadians franchise emerged as a short-season affiliate and the A's maintained their affiliation with the C's.
Official announcements regarding the A's affiliations for 2011 should come in the next few days.