Reno will get AAA franchise

Chris Gavel of the Reno Gazette-Journal writes of a possible Pacific Coast League shuffle that could move the Dodger franchise in the PCL eventually to Fresno. The logic of the moves is complex, so stay with us.

  Much of this is conjecture, but Gavel points out that presently the Diamondbacks are affiliated with the Tucson Sidewinders, who were recently bought by SK Baseball and will likely move to Reno for the 2009 season. The player-development contract between the Diamondbacks and Sidewinders expires after next season.

The Giants affiliate is the Fresno Grizzlies and their player-development contract also expires after next year.

The Dodgers longtime affiliate has been the Las Vegas 51s, who were bought by the Stevens Baseball Group last month. New ownership could mean a new affiliate.

The Athletics have long had a great working relationship and a move for either team is unlikely. 

SK Baseball, which bought the Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders in September, is preparing for this month's ground breaking on a $42 million downtown stadium and the eventual move of the franchise to Reno for the 2009 season. The Diamondbacks, whose highest minor-league affiliate is the Sidewinders, met with Stuart and Jerry Katzoff in mid-December at the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

The parties will have many more conversations over the next several months as they each decide whether to extend the affiliation agreement beyond its current term, which ends after next season.

The Diamondbacks have historically operated one of the top farm systems in all of baseball. But is Reno and its fans thirsty for the Sidewinders, or whatever they will be called two years from now?

Or would it prefer a different affiliation?

There is a large Giants fan base in Northern Nevada, and San Francisco's agreement with the Fresno Grizzlies also expires after next season. But the Giants don't have the same minor-league talent as Arizona.

"Would people in Reno rather have that familiar affiliation or have a winning team?" Katzoff said. "Some would go one way and others a different way.

"(The Diamondbacks) have a solid foundation and farm system. I like the vision they have and the direction they're going. Putting a winning team on the field is important to us."

Under MLB rules, teams and affiliates cannot discuss their player-development contract beyond its length.

If, however, the Diamondbacks or SK Baseball choose to go separate ways it could set off a chain reaction. For example, if the Reno franchise was to become affiliated with the Giants, then the Dodgers, whose Triple-A team in Las Vegas changed ownership last month, could pair up with Fresno and the Diamondbacks with Las Vegas.

Having always had its Triple-A team 80 miles down Interstate 10 from Phoenix, there have been rumblings that the Diamondbacks would continue to want that team as close as possible. But a club official said, "Nothing is going to be like what we have now. Once you get out of Arizona the plane flights are pretty much all the same."

MLB sets aside the month of August for its teams to discuss possible movement of their farm teams at all levels. But decisions of how the PCL of the future will line up will be decided well before then.