Triple-A baseball will remain in Oklahoma City next year. The question is, which MLB team will the RedHawks be affiliated with? After 28 seasons as the Texas Rangers' top affiliate, the teams could choose to go in separate directions. Team management can start negotiating with team once the RedHawks' season ends Sept. 6, first negotiating with Texas and then possibly expanding to others. Here's a look at the most likely candidates:
If the Rangers sale keeps dragging out or Nolan Ryan's group doesn't wind up buying the team, there are more reasons for the cities to stay affiliated than to end the long partnership.
If the Rangers go with Round Rock as their affiliate, the easiest move for the RedHawks, at least in the short term, would be Houston. The Astros are currently affiliated with Round Rock but, like the RedHawks, the Express' Player Development Contract is up after this season.
If Texas and Oklahoma City go their separate ways, this one might make the most sense from the management end. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria formerly owned the then-89ers, and many of the front office and player development personnel with the Marlins have strong Oklahoma ties.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin is familiar with Oklahoma City, having served as the Rangers GM from 1994-2001. The Brewers' agreement with Nashville is up after this year, and Milwaukee could be looking to move.
Chicago White Sox
Charlotte has been affiliated with the White Sox since 1999. But plans to build a new downtown stadium for the team are currently on hold and could give an opportunity for the Sox to look elsewhere.
St. Louis Cardinals
This one would take some work because Memphis' PDC with St. Louis doesn't expire until 2012. The RedHawks would have to sign a two-year agreement with another franchise, then shift again if the two groups came to an agreement.
Toronto Blue Jays
Looking at all of the affiliations in Triple-A, the one that makes the least sense either with geography or history, is the Blue Jays and Las Vegas. The cities are more than 2,000 miles apart, double the distance of any other MLB team and their Triple-A affiliate. Toronto tried to sign with Oklahoma City in 1983 when the Rangers' deal started, so they could make another run.
Other teams whose PDCs expire after the 2010 season
Mets (Buffalo), Orioles (Norfolk), Red Sox (Pawtucket), Twins (Rochester), Nationals (Syracuse), Dodgers (Albuquerque), Rockies (Colorado Springs), Giants (Grizzlies), Royals (Omaha), Padres (Portland), Diamondbacks (Reno), A's (Sacramento) and Mariners (Tacoma). PDCs can be signed for either two- or four-year terms.