After a cancelled 2020 minor league season and yearlong rumors of minor league contraction, some of the dominos are beginning to fall. There haven't been any major news updates of the estimated 20% MILB reduction. There are warning signs of impending changes, some of which I've accumulated here.
Eugene Emeralds: no longer a Cubs affiliate?
If you were trying to do some black Friday/cyber Monday shopping with the Eugene Emeralds team store, you'll notice that there's a distinct lack of Cubs related merchandise. Very surprising for a team that's been affiliated with the Cubs since 2015.
Eugene does have a partnership with the University of Oregon Ducks, and because of their shared stadium, they will likely survive contraction. They will likely be shifted away from Class A short season into a full season league. But as the Cubs already have a close relationship with South Bend A, and another A+ affiliate in the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, I suspect their need for a minor league team on the west coast is reduced.
Iowa Cubs: Contract Renewed? The Iowa Cubs have been a Cubs farm team longer than I've been alive. With the proximity to Chicago and the many WGN-related Cubs fans in the midwest, it would be a shocker to see them leave the Cubs. But with minor league contraction approaching, teams without a deal might be easier cuts.
Ballpark Digest is tracking all of the teams that are up for grabs here. They are expecting Iowa to renew. Hopefully that proves to be the case.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans: Shifting to A-?
The Pelicans and Cubs partnership contract is also up for grabs. Ballpark Digest has them listed as being expected to renew, then shift to low A. This would essentially be a full season replacement for the Emeralds. Myrtle Beach isn't particularly close to Chicago, but then again, neither is Eugene.
South Bend Cubs: Shifting to A+?
The South Bend Cubs are expected to shift to high A, according to ballpark digest. A major realignment for the minor leagues appears to be underfoot, with the short season A class league taking the biggest hit.
Tennessee Smokies: Contract Renewed?
Another Cubs farm team who's contract is up. Ballpark Digest expects them to renew. There's a decent amount of Chicago transplants in the Knoxville area. The Cubs have partnered with them since 2007, so there's a longer term relationship here. As AA level MILB hasn't been touched too badly, I suspect things continue for the Cubs in Tennessee.