There had been some concern in recent weeks over the future of the relationship between the Cubs and their Double-A affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies. The Cubs have been tied to the Smokies — located in the Kodak/Sevierville area, not far from Knoxville and Gatlinburg — since 2007, making it the second-longest affiliate partnership in the organization behind the Iowa Cubs.
So when the player development contract between the Cubs and Smokies was not renewed, many wondered if perhaps a change was afoot. August became September, which then became October, and still there’s been no official word on a new pact. But as Bleed Cubbie Blue’s Josh Timmers wrote, there is indeed an agreement in place for a two-year extension.
A Cubs spokesperson apparently confirmed the deal and a blurb at the end of an article in the Pensacola News Journal also said as much. Focused on the search of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos for a new parent club, the article ruled the Cubs as an option due to their unofficial re-upping with the Smokies.
The Chicago Cubs earlier this month re-upped with the Tennessee Smokies, located near Knoxville, although it hasn’t been officially announced. So the Cubs were not in the mix of teams for the Blue Wahoos.
So what does this mean for the Cubs organization as a whole? Well, nothing really, since it just maintains the status quo. But the Smokies have been a great partner and their ballpark experience is second to none in the Southern League. And assuming Mick Gillispie remains as the voice of the Smokies, it means keeping the top-notch broadcaster around for Cubs Convention and also spring training work with Len Kasper, among other things.
This new deal is only for two years, though, so it doesn’t offer as much stability as the max four-year contract. That could be a product of buzz about a new stadium closer to Knoxville, or perhaps the Cubs want to keep their own options open. One such option could make a lot of sense when you consider the circumstantial evidence.
The Frisco RoughRiders recently extended their own PDC with the Rangers through 2020, which is when the Cubs/Smokies deal will expire. Why does that matter? Well, Frisco’s owner is none other than Chuck Greenberg, who also owns the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (the Cubs’ advanced-A affiliate). Prior to joining the Cubs, the Pelicans were also a Rangers affiliate, so Greenberg is familiar with such a transition.
Then you’ve got RoughRiders President and GM Andy Milovich, a Hoosier native and Cubs fan who previously held the same role with the Pelicans before joining Frisco in March. You have to figure he’d love the opportunity to re-establish ties with the Cubs organization.
That’s all purely speculation, though, and a lot can change over the course of two years. Besides, the draw of having an affiliation with the Cubs is a little stronger in a tourist destination like Myrtle Beach than it is in North Texas. So all that matters for now is that you can still see the Cubs of tomorrow in Eastern Tennessee.