So yeah, the big minor league news is coming out tonight. Rather than just speculation on this one, we actually have confirmation that the Cubs will in fact end their association with the Boise Hawks. The Cubs have been in Boise since 2001.
Unlike Daytona, the Cubs have never seemed very happy in Boise. Memorial Stadium is old and in need of improvements and Boise is a long bus ride away from every other team in the Northwest League. The Cubs have stayed there because they've been impressed with the people in the organization and especially the boosters and host families in the Treasure Valley that have provided excellent support for the minor leaguers there. But other affiliates can offer that as well, so the Cubs are going to look elsewhere.
Where the Cubs go from here is not clear. Not every major league team has a Short-Season A affiliate. If the Cubs want to stay at that level (and they should, as it is considered to be a stronger level than the Pioneer League or the Appalachian League, which are classified as rookie ball), there are not many great options. The NY-Penn League is the other Short-Season A League, but there are only three openings in that league this season. One of them is the Lowell Spinners, and it seems highly unlikely that they won't re-up with the Red Sox. The other two PDCs that expire next week are the Jamestown Jammers (Pirates) and the Hudson Valley Renegades (Rays). I know very little about those two franchises, so I can't fairly evaluate what the chances of the Cubs landing there. I do know that Jamestown would have the very same long bus ride problem that Boise has and it is fairly close to Pittsburgh. Perhaps the Cubs are interested in Hudson Valley. Update: The Jamestown team is moving to Morgantown and a new agreement with the Pirates is just a formality at this point.
Another option would be to stay in the Northwest League, but with a different team. The Eugene Emeralds (Padres), Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Giants) and Tri-City Dust Devils (Rockies) are all up for a new affiliation. While I can't see the Cubs being interested in Tri-City, Eugene and Salem-Keizer would make more sense as they have newer stadiums and are much closer geographically to the other teams in the league than Boise is.
A final option would be to drop down to a rookie ball affiliation. The Pioneer League would make no sense, so perhaps the Cubs are looking to consolidate all their affiliates in Appalachia. The Bluefield Blue Jays are the only affiliate unsigned at this time, and Bluefield, West Virginia is not that far from Sevierville, Tennessee. But again, it would be a step down in quality.
So from a personal level, I'm quite sad to see the Cubs leave Boise, which is my wife's home town. But the Cubs will be announcing a new home for that affiliation in a week or so.