One of the stated goals of the Twins organization for the off-season is to rebuild their AAA franchise in Rochester, NY. After two consecutive years of 90+ losses the Red Wings faithful are more than restless. Beyond fan reactions, the franchise agreement expires at the end of 2012 and the management there has made it clear that they are not happy with what the Twins have provided in recent years and have threatened not to renew the agreement.
I am no expert in minor league baseball management (most of my information about the Red Wings comes from following Jim Mandelaro’s blog), so I am wondering just how serious the situation is or might become. Do the Red Wings and Rochester have good alternatives for attracting another MLB organization to take the Twins’ place? If they decide to move on, what alternatives do the Twins have for another location for their AAA affiliate?
As I contemplate these and other questions, I can think of at least one good reason that the Twins might benefit from a change. Rochester is not an easily accessible place for travel to and from the Twin Cities. That sometimes delays the call ups from getting to the Twins in a timely fashion. Even the time zone difference is less than ideal.
I would think the most daunting obstacle to change for the Twins is finding a city that has or is willing to build a stadium to serve a AAA team. The closest current AAA cities are Omaha and Des Moines and both are entrenched with their parent clubs.
The closest team affiliated with the Twins is the Beloit (WI) Snappers and presumably one could consider them as possible partners, but the stadium there seats only 3,500 currently, one of the smallest in the class A Midwest League. The city is also not large enough to realistically consider expansion.
Ultimately, it appears the Twins must mend fences and work out a new agreement with the Rochester Red Wings. That begins with a more competitive team on the field in 2012.
With all the minor league signings in the past couple of months, the Twins have added several players who should be able to make a difference this year. In addition, some highly touted prospects are likely to be promoted from AA to Rochester. Look for Chris Parmelee, Joe Benson, and Brian Frazier to give the offense a boost and Liam Hendriks is expected to play a prominent role in their starting rotation.
A fresh outlook from the point of view of a new manager, Gene Glynn, and the addition of Tom Brunanski as the new hitting coach should also help.
In all, there is good reason to be hopeful in Rochester in 2012, especially if the parent club can remain healthy and if relatively few players the Red Wings are counting on for an improved record get called up before the end of the AAA season.