In an article published this evening in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Sean Kernan writes that there is a chance that the Cubs could be ending their affiliation with Daytona, which has been the Cubs' High-A affiliate since 1993.
Minor league teams sign what are known as Player Development Contracts with their affiliates for a period of two, four or six years. All contracts scheduled to expire this year will end on September 16, starting a two-week period informally called the "Affiliation Shuffle." During this two-week period, teams with expiring PDCs can sign with a different affiliate. Teams can re-sign with their own affiliate before then, but cannot sign with a new minor league team except in that two-week period.
Not extending a contract before it runs out does not mean that the team cannot re-sign with their affiliate during the shuffle. It does happen often. But when they don't sign before the contract runs out, it means either the major league team or the affiliate are at least considering going elsewhere
Daytona Cubs owner Andy Rayburn said today that he has not heard anything from the Cubs yet this season about renewing the association. He says that is unusual because these things had always been taken care of ahead of time in the past. (Although it should be said, that was under different Chicago management.) So he is at least concerned that the Cubs could be leaving Daytona after 22 seasons. The Cubs are the only affiliate this current Daytona franchise has ever had.
If the Cubs leave Daytona, they would likely want to move to the Carolina League. There are three franchises whose PDCs expire next week in the Carolina League: the Carolina Mudcats (Indians), the Lynchburg Hillcats (Braves) and the the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Rangers). The News-Journal article says that there are four teams whose contracts are up and that's technically true. But one of those is the White Sox affiliate in Winston-Salem and the White Sox bought a controlling interest in that club earlier this season so they won't be changing affiliations.
Moving to the Carolina League would also bring the Cubs' High-A Affiliate closer to the Double-A affiliate in Tennessee. Lynchburg would be the closest of those three, but they already have a natural connection with the Braves, who are popular throughout the South. (Of course, it's possible that the Braves want to change affiliations.) Myrtle Beach isn't all that close to Sevierville, TN. One would assume that Carolina would be the most likely destination if the Cubs change affiliations.
Moving to another team in the Florida State League would be possible, although it wouldn't make much sense. There would be some small travel advantages to being affiliated with Fort Myers or Bradenton, but it hardly seems like it would be worth ending a 22-year relationship over. The other option would be the California League, which would make me very happy but no one else. It seems ridiculous to think the Cubs would leave Daytona for the California League.
The Cubs are signed with Iowa through 2016 and Tennessee through 2018. The affiliations with Kane County and Boise are also up for renewal, although a recent Kane County press release about stadium improvements makes it sound like Kane County will stay with the Cubs.
I should stress again that the news of this story is that there is no news, which is concerning for the ownership in Daytona. I personally would like to see the Cubs stay in Daytona as I think their 22-year history there has been a profitable one for both sides. But if the Cubs do decide to move, it is not likely to have a big impact on the development of prospects either way. Both the Cubs and Daytona will move on and continue to do well.
I know that people around here have complained about the weather in Florida, but this year hasn't been too bad and I can assure you, they get rain and tropical storms in the Carolinas as well. The biggest impact would likely be to save a few dollars in travel expenses, which again, I don't see as being worth ending a 22-year relationship with, unless there is more to this story than we know at this point.