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  • Even In The Future, Moving A Twins Minor League Team To St. Paul Will Face Hurdles

    Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press posted a column (click here) with a number of quotes from Twins president Dave St. Peter concerning the possibility of the Twins locating a minor league affiliate in St. Paul, now that the city has funding assured to move forward with building their new stadium. The stadium is being built to Class A standards (which basically deal with things like clubhouse and training facilities and a certain minimum seating capacity).

    Here are St. Peter's quotes and some additional information:

    "I would certainly never say never to that... But I certainly don't anticipate that being reality over the short term... Certainly in the next two to four years, I think it would be very unlikely that that would happen."

    This makes sense because the stadium won't be ready until 2015 and the Twins will be entering in to a new player development contract (PDC) with another Midwest League team next week which will have either a 2-year term or a 4-year term. Since the Twins likely aren't renewing with Beloit, it's most likely going to be a 4-year term. It would be unusual for a first agreement with a new city to be just two years; those affiliates are not going to want to have to go through the process of finding a new partner again just two years down the road.

    "The reality is that a lot of things would need to happen for that even to be considered."

    St. Peter goes on to state that the biggest factor would be the territorial rights that the Twins own. No affiliated minor league team can set up shop within a certain distance of the Twins' territorial rights without the Twins' permission and St. Paul is definitely inside the restricted territory. I'm really not so sure that's the biggest factor, however. The Twins could give approval with the condition that the minor league team remaining affiliated with the Twins. This is the deal Dayton has with the Reds, from what I've read. That's why, even though Dayton's PDC with the Reds has not yet renewed this year, there's no chance Dayton could sign with another MLB team even if they wanted to.

    It seems to me that the bigger issue for a possible St. Paul affiliate is that neither the Twins, nor the Saints, nor anyone else can just say, "we're going to do this," and make it happen. Existing affiliated minor league teams are assured affiliations under MLB rules and nobody can just tell the Midwest League they're going to put a team in St. Paul. There are really just a couple scenarios that could result in a Twins MWL affiliate in St. Paul. (And forget about a AA or AAA team. There isn't a AA league anywhere near the Midwest and even the new stadium doesn't meet AAA minimum standards, which require a 10,000 capacity stadium, at a minimum).

    For a NEW team to be awarded to St. Paul, the MWL would have to petition baseball to be allowed to expand and it would have to be by two teams to remain an even number. Since every MLB team already has a full season Class A team, expansion won't happen.

    Someone could buy an existing MWL franchise or at least convince owners of a current MWL franchise to relocate to St. Paul. They would have to give 18 months notice of intent to relocate. But the real problem is finding a franchise willing to relocate. The MWL has a lot of newer stadiums and teams are generally doing OK financially where they are. There are a few older ballparks that could certainly stand to be replaced, but those teams are pretty much all community-owned.

    The teams in Beloit, Clinton and Burlington, for example, aren't going to relocate or sell out because, even if attendance isn't huge, they're at least breaking even financially. Peoria, if they did decide to sell or be relocated, would almost certainly move to another central Illinois community. (There are a number of Frontier League team owners that would probably welcome the opportunity to become affiliated minor league team owners.) There really don't seem to be franchise options available for a possible move north.

    Finally, even if these obstacles were overcome, the MWL itself would have to approve a St. Paul location. Could that happen? Yes, but it's far from certain. The league rejected an ownership group that wanted to place a team in Marion, IL (the southern tip of IL) back in 2005-06. Marion was far enough outside the league's current footprint that the increased travel costs for other MWL teams would be significant (and those costs are paid by the minor league team, not the MLB affiliate).

    The league has subsequently admitted Bowling Green KY, but it wasn't a slam dunk. BG was essentially a "transfer" from the South Atlantic League so an affiliated minor league team already was located there. Even then, it was resisted by some members of the league. Scheduling also becomes a problem because players must be given off-days any time they have to travel by bus more than 500 miles and about half the MWL locations would exceed that distance from St. Paul.

    In the end, if I were the Twins, I'd certainly like the idea of putting an affiliate in St. Paul so I'd be saying the same things St. Peter is. But when he says, "...a lot of things would need to happen for that even to be considered," he ain't lyin' because it's not a decision the Twins can unilaterally make and almost all of the parties that would have to give approval have strong incentives not to.


    Jim Crikket writes at Knuckleballsblog.com.
    This article was originally published in blog: St. Peter's Comments re: Possible Twins Affiliate in St. Paul started by Jim Crikket
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. nowheresville's Avatar
      nowheresville -
      If the Twins really want to get an affiliate in St. Paul, perhaps the target date should be 2020, not 2016.

      My understanding is that the current franchise agreements in the Midwest League are in place through 2020. In other words, all the current teams are guaranteed players through that year. However, when that's up, we could have a whole new ballgame. I don't think its out of the question for MiLB and/or the Midwest League to say at that point Beloit, Burlington, and maybe even Clinton's facilities are not up to par, and essentially revoke their franchises.

      And then you've got expansion on the table, where you could open up moving into St. Paul, and/or some of the other Northwoods or Frontier League cities that might be interested in going with affiliated ball.

      Its probably a longshot, and at best, its almost a decade away, but if the Twins actually want to have a minor league team in their backyard, that might be the way it could actually get done.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      2020 will be interesting well beyond the MWL. That's when the whole MLB/MiLB agreement expires, I believe. So all of these rules about how the whole minor league affiliation system will have to be renegotiated by then. So yes, how that negotiation changes things could certainly change the landscape. At the very least, I would think stadium standards would get a thorough review and that's why any community that's currently way down the list in terms of facilities should plan on doing something about that before 2020.

      I'm still not sure that the Twins and/or Veeck are really all that excited about a possible affiliation, though. Then again, 8 years is a long time and who knows how anyone will feel by then?
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      So what's the benefit for the Twins? Easy access for rehab assignments, but most players are going to do serious rehab at the complex in Ft Myers anyway so that doesn't really matter. Easy access for viewing some prospects, but it's a low level so there's little need to see them too frequently and the location isn't really a big upgrade over Beloit.

      Wouldn't the Twins be against it, just from a business competition standpoint? They probably already figure they are losing some sales to the Saints. The Tigers effectively blocked a minor league startup from using old Tiger Stadium for business reasons.
    1. nowheresville's Avatar
      nowheresville -
      The Saints becoming a Twins Affiliate wouldn't be more competition, it would be less.

      Regardless of what happens, the Saints are going to be playing in St. Paul in a new ballpark. The only question is if it would be an independent league team like it is now, or if they someday join the Twins family. Either way you look at it, there is another professional team in the Twin Cities.

      If they became affiliated, then the Saints basically become a gigantic advertising tool for the Twins. They'd be able to promote Target Field all over the new Midway, and fans who go to Saints games will be getting to know players that will someday be on the Twins roster, which only helps. Imagine if people going to Saints games this year had been watching Miguel Sano play, how much more excited would they be to watch him when he makes it to Target Field in a couple years?

      The other reality is that its already being done all over baseball. The Indians MWL team is less than 20 miles from Cleveland. The Reds have a team in Dayton - and if you ever go to Great American Ballpark, you see tons of Dragons gear and ads. The Cubs just moved their MWL team to the suburb of Kane County. The ones I think are real interesting are the AAA teams that are right next door, like Seattle whose AAA team is in Tacoma, and the Braves who have both their AAA and an A ball team near Atlanta. Certainly, such an arraignment could work, if the Twins wanted it to, and all of the other, bigger, complications could be solved
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Our family took a trip to Beloit earlier this summer, and a great Father-Son memory is a road-trip with my Dad to see the Kenosha Twins several years ago. My boys have already seen the "Mr. Shucks" videos, so we'll be driving past the corn fields on our way to Cedar Rapids next summer. All the same, The St. Paul Saint, as MN Twins Class-A affiliate would mean 4 or 5 games a season for me, as opposed to two games over, what, almost 30 years... I love the concept. Now, does the Midwest League see this as a "value added" move? What's in it for them?
    1. gremacenikishi's Avatar
      gremacenikishi -
      WOW! This information made me understand something, and it is that I never knew before.
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